Monday, January 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays move on from blown call

ARLINGTON, Texas — The blown call that ended Monday's game remained a prime topic of conversation leading up to Tuesday's, but both Rays INF/OF Ben Zobrist, who was shocked to be called out on strikes, and manager Joe Maddon, who was outraged, said they were ready to move on, no matter how costly the mistake might have been in the loss to the Rangers.

"For me, and for us, it's over with," Maddon said. "All the vitriolic moments that occur at that moment, you just get it out and then you move it along from there. You don't want it to become poisonous and something that you do carry with you, it's not going to benefit anybody."

Home-plate umpire Marty Foster, who called the strike on a Joe Nathan pitch more than 6 inches off the plate, told a pool reporter he blew it, then called Maddon to apologize.

"I really respect him a lot for checking in about that," Maddon said. "I think it shows a lot on his part."

Zobrist said he was shocked at the call but "felt no anger whatsoever" toward Foster, understanding everyone makes mistakes. But, he conceded, "it was the spirit of God that kept me from jumping in his face and screaming at him."

Zobrist also said mistakes like that will lead to increased replay for MLB.

Crew chief Tim Welke said Maddon likely would not be disciplined for his long and loud protest. "My language was pretty darn good for me," Maddon said.

NIEMANN SURGERY TODAY: RHP Jeff Niemann said the switch from starting to relief work increased the soreness in his shoulder and led to today's scheduled surgery that even on an optimistic timetable will require a 9- to 12-month recovery.

Niemann, who had shoulder issues at the end of last season, pitched somewhat effectively, albeit at reduced velocity, throughout the spring but was sent to the bullpen after losing out on the final rotation spot to Roberto Hernandez and said just a few days of the bullpen routine caused big problems.

"During spring we were starting, so we had time to manipulate and save it all, so to speak, for your day," Niemann said. "Out in the bullpen you have to be ready every day, and my attempts just to be able to throw a ball and to be loose and warm and have the body ready to go pitch with no recovery time sent it downhill so fast that it was the first time we really experienced any kind of backtracking at all. … It was pretty clear and obvious."

Niemann said if he was still starting and felt the same soreness, he would be in the same position. But what he couldn't answer is whether he would have been as sore had he not been shifted to the bullpen. He also declined to discuss whether in retrospect he would have been better off having surgery at the end of last season.

The surgery will be done by Rangers doctor Keith Meister, and Niemann plans to stay in Arlington for at least the initial phase of recovery.

GREAT SCOTT: DH Luke Scott was encouraged after taking batting practice on the field and running for the first time in his recovery from a right calf strain, saying the improvement was due to some deep tissue work on his hip flexor. He has to pass more tests before beginning a rehab assignment.

MISCELLANY: Thunderstorms and severe weather are forecast for this morning and early afternoon, and since this is the Rays' only trip to Texas, a long delay is possible. … The Rays will wear new letterman-style jackets, with the sunburst logo on the left breast, to Boston tonight in the first themed road trip of the season. … OF Brandon Guyer, passed over for Shelley Duncan when Scott was hurt, homered twice in Triple-A Durham's 10-run first inning and has three for the season.

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