ST. PETERSBURG — As disappointed as right-hander Jeff Niemann was, he knew it could have ended up a lot worse.
Niemann experienced a scary moment in the second inning of his first start Thursday against the Orioles, getting struck on the outside of his right shoulder by a line drive from Miguel Tejada.
The Rays pulled Niemann as a precaution, and though he's still sore, he is encouraged that he suffered just a bruise, and hopes to make his next start.
"That's as close as it gets I guess," Niemann said. "It was the best-case scenario, it got my shoulder, plus it was the meaty part."
The ball bounced off Niemann's arm right to the glove of first baseman Carlos Peña for an out. Niemann was immediately attended to by manager Joe Maddon and the team's athletic training staff. He tried a couple warmup pitches, but Maddon played it safe, replacing him with Andy Sonnanstine after just 12 pitches.
"There was no sense in having him pitch the rest of the inning because it was going to get stiff when he sat down anyway," Maddon said. "So I thought it was the prudent thing to do."
Niemann said he initially wanted to stay in, but realized later he was glad he didn't.
"Ten minutes after, I got done and in (the clubhouse), it was like, 'Okay, I knew we made the right decision,' " he said.
Maddon said the unfortunate part was that Niemann had "really good stuff." Niemann entered this season confident and comfortable, coming off an impressive spring. But after a 1-2-3 first inning, his start was cut short. His 11/3 innings were the fewest by a Rays starter at Tropicana Field since Edwin Jackson's one-third of an inning on June 13, 2007 vs. the Padres.
"With all the buildup, and anticipation to start the season, and it's finally here. … I just wanted to get out and go," he said. "It was very disappointing."
He and teammates knew that he was lucky the ball hit him where it did.
"That hits his shoulder," Sonnanstine said. "But for guys that aren't 6-8, 6-9, it could be the side of their heads."