The Rays Tank: Uptons Shine for Braves, Jeff Niemann Heading for Surgery

Scott Cunningham

It's the best-case scenario for B.J. Upton and the Rays- the Rays don't miss him and he gets to have fun playing with his brother.

The Rays had themselves a smooth game on Saturday as they beat the Indians 6-0. The game that really took the headlines throughout baseball, though, was shockingly not the Rays game, although a former Ray was right in the thick of things.

The Atlanta Braves headed into the eighth inning down 5-1 to the Cubs, but they came up with three in the eighth inning before making baseball history in the ninth. B.J. Upton led off the frame with a game-tying home run off of Carlos Marmol and two batters later, his brother Justin Upton finished the job with a walk-off home run. Per Elias, marked the first time in baseball history that brother hit a game-tying and a walk-off home run in the same inning and the first time brothers homered in the same inning since Billy and Cal Ripken for the Orioles back in 1996.

Given how great Desmond Jennings has been, Rays fans have been able to all but forget and move on from B.J. so far in the young season. It's incredible how the Rays seem to have managed once again to lose a critical player to free agency and continue without the slightest hitch. Even with Upton out of the picture for the Rays, though, it's great to see him get the opportunity to play with his brother in Atlanta, and with Upton in the NL, Rays fans can root for him unabashedly to succeed with new team.

There was one big Rays new item yesterday, and it was not a good one. Per Marc Topkin, Jeff Niemann appears heading for surgery on his sore right shoulder. Nothing is official and Niemann will get a second opinion on Monday, but things are not looking good for Niemann and the Rays. Everything has fallen apart for Niemann in the past few weeks as he went from competing for a rotation spot to the bullpen and now to the disabled list, and unfortuantely he might be there a long time.

Per Baseball Prospectus, Niemann also underwent shoulder surgery back in 2006, and this problem resurfacing does not look good at all. James Shields and J.P. Howell represent other Rays who survived shoulder surgery, but there are no guarantees for Niemann at this point. Niemann has been a pitcher who has been excellent at times for the Rays, but the injuries have just never stopped coming and it's sad to see what was a promising career looking as uncertain as ever with the surgery oncoming.

Here are your links for today:

  • The Rays' High-A affiliate, the Charlotte Stone Crabs, came within 1 out of a no-hitter as the beat the Palm Beach Cardinals 4-1. Jesse Hahn tossed the first 3 innings, striking out 2 and recording 6 of his 7 other outs on the ground, before Jake Floethe went the next 5 in perfect fashion, but Lenny Linsky faltered at the worst possible time with 2 outs in the 9th. Hahn especially is a high-rising prospect after dominating the New York-Penn League last season, and if his brief start means anything, a huge season could be ahead for him despite the huge jump from Short Season ball to High-A.
  • Marc Topkin released his All-time Rays team. The most surprising player? Miguel Cairo.
  • Also from Topkin, Carly Rae Jepsen of "Call Me Maybe" fame will be among the concerts at the Trop this season. The Rays will be making an official announcement later this week.
  • Within the Niemann article, Topkin noted that Kelly Johnson has now played a different position in each of the last four games after starting in left field on Saturday. He previously played first base, DH, and second base. That's especially notable since Johnson who didn't play anywhere in the field but second base the last six years.
  • Ken Rosenthal talked about the Marlins bringing up 20 year old Tampa native Jose Fernandez to the major leagues on Sunday for his big leagues debut. Quite a difference between the Rays' ultra-cautious approach with their prospect and what the Marlins are doing with Fernandez.
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