Minnesota Twins Opening Day Countdown: 17, Pat Neshek
By Nate Palmer
The Minnesota Twins are just 17 days away from Opening Day in Baltimore. As we near that day, here is more Twins history related to that number.
The Minnesota Twins are preparing for a 2018 season with expectation after making the playoffs in 2017 as a Wild Card team. We will highlight numbers from team history that represent the number of days until Opening Day on March 29th in Baltimore.
Today we remember a pitcher that got his start in life in Wisconsin but spent his formative years as one of us and graduated from high school in Brooklyn Park, MN. He is best known across baseball for his unorthodox side-arm delivery and just cashed in this offseason as a free agent. That pitcher is number 17, Pat Neshek.
Neshek’s path to the majors
Neshek’s trademark side-arm delivery comes as the result of an injury he sustained at the end of his senior season of high-school baseball. In an effort to protect himself from a pitch coming at him while batting, he blocked the baseball with his forearm. The blow left Neshek with a bump on his wrist which hurt when he threw the ball in a traditional manner but he was able to find relief when he threw the ball in his unconventional side-arm way.
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Neshek would move onto Butler University after declining to sign with the Twins after they drafted him in the 45th round of the 1999 draft. While at Butler, Neshek would fully embrace his new side-arm throwing motion as he realized it was the only way he could throw without pain. The newly embraced throwing motion also proved quite effective. Then in the 2002 draft, the Twins would again select Neshek but this time in the 6th round.
Neshek would then debut for the Twins mid-2006 and become a solid part of the bullpen as the Twins went on to finish first in the American League Central. In that first half season, Neshek threw 37.0 innings and had a 2.19 ERA. He would follow up 2006 with a solid full season in 2007 as he logged 70.1 innings had a 2.94 ERA and appeared in 74 games.
2008 wasn’t as great as Neshek would end up tearing his UCL and would need to undergo Tommy John surgery causing him to miss the rest of the 2008 and all of the 2009 season. That, unfortunately, was basically the last we would see of Neshek in a Twins uniform. He would recover from Tommy John surgery only to end up back on the DL with a palm injury which would lead to him missing most of the 2010 season as well.
Since leaving the Twins after the 2010 season, Neshek has had several different MLB stops and has made two All-Star appearances along the way. This past season he was pitching so well that he was one of the most coveted relief pitchers at the trade deadline. Now 37, Neshek was able to sign a healthy two year, $16.25 million contract with an option for a third year with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Next: Trying to project the 2018 Bullpen
Neshek was a fun pitcher to root for as he came up with the Twins. It would have been great to have brought him home to the Twins. Instead from a distance, we will have to see if Neshek and the now intriguing Phillies will make waves in the National League East. And fittingly he will be once again, number 17 Pat Neshek.