On April 10, while the Rays were at Rangers Ballpark to play their third series of the season, Niemann was undergoing surgery to repair the labrum and rotator cuff in his right shoulder, a procedure that carried an estimated nine- to 12-month recovery.
Niemann -- limited to only eight Major League starts in an injury-riddled 2012 season -- said he's "ahead of schedule" but that throwing off a mound is still "too far down the road" for him to have a definitive timeline. The 6-foot-9 right-hander has been rehabbing hard near his Houston home five days a week and is playing catch from 90 feet, hopeful of being healthy by the start of Spring Training.
"The way things are going," he said, "the timeline really looks well for next year."
Niemann, who made $3 million in 2013, is arbitration-eligible for the third time this offseason and could be non-tendered, but that was the furthest thing from his mind as he made the rounds in the visitors' clubhouse at Rangers Ballpark on Monday afternoon, hours before his team would face the Rangers in game No. 163.
"This reinvigorated me, just seeing this and being here, seeing the guys do their thing," he said. "You can only see so much on TV. To know what it's really like and to miss that, and to miss all the guys, and the fun that is this team -- on the field and off the field -- it's a great group of guys to watch and a good group of guys to be around. I'm looking for some good stuff tonight, and hopefully, I get to keep watching."