Neshek figures to get long look
Newly acquired reliever still has time to make Opening Day roster
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Pat Neshek hadn't even been in Peoria for a full day when the Padres pressed him into duty for one inning of work Tuesday against the Brewers in Maryvale.
Not that Neshek minded at all.
"I want to be in there every day," Neshek said. "That's something I love to do ... be out there every day."
It's a good thing, too, since the Padres figure to take a long look at the right-hander from now until March 29, when the team breaks camp and heads to St. Louis in preparation for Opening Day on March 31.
He was back out there again Tuesday. He struck out two batters in his one inning and got a ground-ball out. The two strikeouts came on sliders. He threw 13 pitches, 11 for strikes.
"It's funky, it's deceptive," Padres manager Bud Black said of Neshek, who was clocked between 86-89 mph.
The Padres claimed Neshek off waivers from the Twins on Sunday, to help replenish the bullpen depth they lost over the winter in deals that landed shortstop Jason Bartlett and center fielder Cameron Maybin.
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The team also wanted some insurance in case reliever Ernesto Frieri -- who was slowed early in camp with a sore right shoulder -- has a setback, or isn't ready for Opening Day.
Frieri struck out two in one inning of work in Monday's loss to the White Sox and, from all accounts, has recovered well.
What this means for Neshek -- who still has one Minor League option -- is that he could find himself a part of the 25-man roster if he shows well over the final week of Spring Training.
Neshek is owed $625,000 this season.
Neshek posted a 4.26 ERA over six relief appearances for the Twins this spring, with five strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.
"My last outing, I gave up a home run to Miguel Cabrera and maybe I was fired up ... but all of my pitches were coming out at 89 [mph]," Neshek said. "I feel I'm starting to show signs of my old self."
Neshek was a dependable setup man for closer Joe Nathan in Minnesota in 2006, and again in 2007 -- when he posted a 2.94 ERA, and allowed 44 hits in 70 1/3 innings, along with 74 strikeouts.
But Neshek appeared in only 15 games with the Twins in 2008 before being placed on the disabled list on May 9 with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Subsequently, he had Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2009 season.
The Padres had no fewer than three scouts watch Neshek pitch in Florida this month, and the consensus was that he could still pitch, even though his velocity -- clocked anywhere between 85-88 mph -- hasn't returned to where it was before he had surgery, when he routinely threw between 91-93 mph.
"This is a guy who was dominant before surgery," Padres general manager Jed Hoyer said of Neshek, who has a 3.05 career ERA.
Neshek didn't walk into a clubhouse full of strangers when he arrived late Monday, as he played with Bartlett, second baseman Orlando Hudson and relief pitcher Randy Flores during his time in Minnesota, and also played with catcher Jason Phillips in the Minor Leagues.
As for breaking the news that he was headed to the Padres on his Twitter account on Sunday, Neshek said "I like to interact with the fans and let them know what's going on."
"I made a lot of friends there [in Minnesota], but it's [movement] part of the game," said Neshek, who was drafted by the Twins in 2002. "I think they understand this is a great place for me."