NEW YORK -- Jeff Niemann was originally scheduled to start Thursday night against the Yankees, but the Rays elected to have Matt Moore make a spot start on Thursday and have Niemann pitch Saturday at Tropicana Field.
Had they not moved Moore into Thursday night's slot, the rookie left-hander would have started Saturday night. The Rays needed an extra starter due to the fact they used two starters in Thursday's doubleheader.
The main reason for flip-flopping Moore and Niemann was due to Niemann experiencing some upper back stiffness.
"We needed a pitcher for today and Saturday," Niemann said Thursday. "And this is the way it worked out. This is not a drastic change for anything, and it will give me two extra days. It's just something that kind of crept up. It's just part of the deal, you know."
Niemann said the soreness was isolated to his upper back and did not affect his shoulder, arm or lower back (he missed time earlier this season due to a lower back problem).
"It's just upper back," Niemann said. "Just didn't quite feel right after [Saturday's] game [against the Red Sox]. Didn't recover as well as I have in the past. ... It's not anything. It's one of those things where Matt was going to pitch today or Saturday. It was one of those things it was easy to slide him in here."
When asked if there was any chance he might not start Saturday, Niemann replied: "No, I'm going out there, period. That's going to happen."
Scenarios abound if Rays end up in WC tie
NEW YORK -- Now that the American League Wild Card race is a three-team pursuit, it's worth looking at the possibilities that would be available if the Red Sox, Rays and Angels all finished in a three-way tie or if the Rays finished in a two-team tie.
Under league policy for said scenarios, the Rays would be in the driver's seat based on their combined record against the Angels and Red Sox.
Thus, at the end of the final day of the season Wednesday, if the Rays finish in a tie with either the Angels or the Red Sox, the Rays would host a one-game playoff on Thursday.
Should all three teams finish in a tie, here are the scenarios for which the Rays can pick their fate:
Under scenario A, the Rays could choose to play two games at home. Of course, that would be under the condition they were not eliminated in the first game. For example, if they played the Angels in the first game at Tropicana Field and won, they would then play the Red Sox at Tropicana Field.
Scenario B would be to play the first game on the road and if they won, they would play the other team at Tropicana Field.
And finally, there's Scenario C, in which the Rays would play the winner of an Angels-Red Sox playoff game, but they would have to play that game on the road.
So it appears the Rays' obvious choice would be Scenario C. Even if they would have to play on the road, they would only have to win one game.
"I've heard the three-team thing, that's very interesting," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I'm not worried about them. I'm not concerned about them. I'm not going to think about them. It doesn't matter. It's just a matter of getting there, and you've got to do everything you possibly can to get there. You don't save anything. You don't look to tomorrow. Just win baby."
Rays to offer free parking on Friday vs. Jays
NEW YORK -- Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg announced Wednesday that free parking will be available in any Rays-controlled lots at Tropicana Field for Friday night's game against the Blue Jays.
Rays manager Joe Maddon noted that he would like to see a sellout to accompany Sternberg's gesture.
"Listen, we could totally use a sellout at the Trop, quite frankly," Maddon said. "I don't see why you wouldn't want to come and see this group of guys play."
Maddon noted that this year's team had overcome a lot of obstacles and that the team has a lot of talent, even though a lot of that talent is inexperienced.
"But a lot of it's about intensity and desire and being ready to play on a nightly basis," Maddon said. "All those wonderful attributes you want to attribute to your team. Every manager does. And I think we have all of that. I think we drip with intangibles."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.