Sidewinder. Submariner. Sidearmer. How ever you want to slice it, it’s been the one missing demographic from the A’s bullpen over the past few years. Unless of course you want to count the unforgettable Jay Marshall, but then again who does? A’s fans are much more likely to recall the steadiness and reliability of Chad Bradford, or the brilliance of Dennis Eckersley who side armed his way straight to Cooperstown. The under the radar acquisition of veteran reliever Pat Neshek, did little to appease Athletics fans clamoring for a big time addition. I myself misjudged the deal as nothing more then minor league filler. Simply a deal to bolster the depleted Sacramento bullpen who had recently lost Fautino De Los Santos, Chris Ray, and Erick Threets in a short period of time. However, due to the A’s bullpen being taxed, Neshek reported straight to Oakland and has since paid dividends in his time here. In less then a week, he has already been used in 4 games and has been nearly flawless allowing neither a run nor a hit. To top that off he’s struck out 6 of the 12 batters he’s faced including Torii Hunter with the bases loaded in a key situation in Wednesdays game.
To those who are familiar with Neshek, this success should come as no surprise.
Starting with his rookie season of 2006, Neshek has displayed the ability to punch out hitters at a very high rate. Averaging 10.1 strikeouts per 9 inning throughout his career. While piling on the K’s early, he was also rocketing up the ranks of the Twins relief corps, settling into a role as the right handed set-up man to Joe Nathan for the better part of his first two seasons. Utilizing a fastball/slider/change combo from an extremely violent and low release point, he was murder on opposing batters and one of the better relievers in the league. Unfortunately, elbow pain early in the 2008 season led to the disclosure that he had suffered a torn UCL. Tommy John surgery had claimed another victim, and before you could bat an eye, Neshek had lost a season and was on the rehab trail trying to reclaim the velocity he once had. A misdiagnosed hand injury and subsequent squabble with the Twins training staff led to a demotion and eventual exit from the Minnesota organization. After a season in the Padres organization found Neshek struggling with his control for the first time in his career, he was forced to settle for a Triple A contract with Baltimore this past off season. Despite failing to make the Orioles out of spring training, Neshek was able to regain his velocity and control, showing the form he once had filling in as closer of the Tidewater Tides until being acquired by the Athletics. With Ryan Cook struggling as of late, the importance of Neshek in the bullpen may prove to be integral for the A’s to continue their winning ways as we head into the final weeks of the season.
Fun Fact: Pat Neshek is an avid autograph and sports memorabilia collector, a portion of his collection can be viewed on his personal website. In addition, Neshek can be found on twitter @patneshek, where he interacts frequently with his fans and followers.