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Rays notes: Niemann eager to follow Howell’s lead

Published:   |   Updated: April 10, 2013 at 06:29 AM
ARLINGTON, Texas -

RHP Jeff Niemann said he exhausted every option available to relieve the pain in his throwing shoulder before finally deciding on the final option — surgery.

“You don’t want it to come to this, but we’ve done everything we can,” Niemann said. “It’s gotten us this far, but we just kind of needed a little boost to get all the way back, so unfortunately we had to make that tough choice and it was really the only option out there.”

Niemann will have surgery this morning at the Trinity Park Surgery Center in Arlington. Keith Meister, the Rangers’ team physician, will perform the surgery. Meister also performed surgery on Niemann in 2005 to shave the joint between his collarbone and shoulder. Niemann said tests weren’t clear on exactly what is wrong with his shoulder. Meister won’t know the full extent of the damage until the surgery. Regardless, Niemann put his recovery time at nine to 12 months.

“I know when he comes back and pitches he’s going to do it with a free and clear mind,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s unfortunate for him and us right now, but longevity-wise it’s something that can benefit him and us down the road.”

Niemann, who lost out on the final spot of the rotation this spring to RHP Roberto Hernandez, said he felt discomfort during the spring but was able to manage it between starts. He didn’t have that luxury once he joined the bullpen at the start of the regular season.

“In the bullpen you have to be ready every day, and my attempts to be able to throw a ball and be loose and warm and have the body ready to go pitch had no recovery time. It went downhill so fast,” he said. “It was the first time we experienced any backtracking at all during this time.”

Niemann said he talked to former Rays LHP J.P. Howell, who had similar surgery in May 2011. Howell told him to “buckle up.”

Watching Howell return to the majors is proof that Niemann can do the same.

“We have to be excited about coming back with a clean shoulder and see what we’re able to do,” Niemann said.

Remember me? LHP Matt Moore returns to the mound at Rangers Ballpark for the first time since his stunning 9-0 victory in Game 1 of the 2011 American League Division Series. Moore allowed two hits, two walks and struck out six in seven innings that day.

“I’d say just because of the stage and what it meant to the team, probably my best game ever,” Moore said.

That was Moore’s second start as a big-league pitcher and fueled the high expectations that followed him in 2012 during his rookie season.

“It was just a matter of putting some good pitches down in the zone and trying to get out of innings as quick as possible,” he said.

Moore hopes to repeat his Rangers Ballpark success by building off his success in his first outing of the year when he pitched six scoreless innings against the Indians.

“That’s been my mindset this entire week preparing, just to stay with that tempo and stay with the things that were working for me (Friday),” he said.

Scott improving DH Luke Scott had a “deep tissue release” of his hip flexor last week, which released the tension in his oblique, which in turn released the tension in his hamstring, which then released the tension in his strained right calf.

As a result, Scott believes he’s farther along in his rehab. He took batting practice Tuesday afternoon and continued with running drills in the outfield.

“I’m encouraged,” Scott said.

The next step is running the bases and sprints. Scott said he feels he can play in a minor-league game or two during this 10-game road trip and return to the active roster when the Rays are on their next homestand.

Noteworthy Maddon signed a copy of Monday’s lineup card and sent it to Rangers RHP Joe Nathan to commemorate Nathan’s 300th save. Nathan thanked Maddon during batting practice. … The Rays will wear letterman jackets to Boston after today’s game. … The Rays entered Tuesday’s game with an American League-low .216 batting average from innings 1 through 6. They were batting .301 from the seventh inning on.

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