Bare with me for a moment. I fell for conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory when I was younger. I believed that the Freemasons ran the world, that George Bush meant one world order when he mentioned “new world order” in a speech, that the government obviously controlled the weather, so on and so forth. Not taking anything away from anyone that believes as much, I just don’t think that most conspiracy theories hold much water. That is to say, my perspective changed as I got older. Trust me, this analogy is going somewhere.
Rumors swirled around Jeff Niemann’s placement in the bullpen prior to the start of the 2013 season — unsubstantiated conjecture, or conspiracy theories that I found hard to swallow at the time. However, when the news broke that the newly minted 30 year-old reliever would be having season ending surgery, my mind began to change.
Here is a pitcher that had yet to see any regular season action in 2013. A pitcher whose numbers were good in Spring Training, though his velocity was down. A pitcher who we were led to believe was placed in the pen — not in the starting rotation — as a means to build his arm strength and increase his velocity. In short, we were led to believe that there was nothing wrong with the tall RHP.
Niemann received a second opinion Monday by Keith Meister, the Rangers team doctor. Meister gave the prognosis of labrum and rotator cuff damage, giving Niemann a choice between surgery or an injection plus rehab. He opted for surgery after deciding rest wouldn’t be enough to get him back to full strength. Niemann’s surgery will be performed Wednesday in the Dallas-Fort Worth area by Meister.
This isn’t Niemann’s first bout with shoulder surgery. He initially went under the knife in 2005, a procedure which corrected an impingement among other things. More recently, he missed about a month at the end of the 2012 season with a shoulder strain, with the joint having given him some nagging trouble in the past.
The conspiracy theorist in me has to believe that the Rays knew about this beforehand. I’d also imagine this is why he was put in the pen in the first place. Why Roberto Hernandez got the fifth starter spot over Chris Archer is still confounding, though I suspect we’ll see him in the rotation at some point in the near future. To that end, the Rays pen is stronger with Brandon Gomes in there, in lieu of the chronically injured Niemann.
In the end, it’s a tough break for Jeff Niemann. Odds are good that he’ll face a tough rehab, plus a non-tender this offseason is in the future. Worst of all, this could spell the end of his career if the surgery does not fix his shoulder related issues. Then again, perhaps he could change positions…or pull an RA Dickey and develop a knuckle ball.