<
>

Neshek might be ready to stop pitching this season

MINNEAPOLIS -- Pat Neshek was so unhittable in the first
half that he was on the list of players Major League Baseball put
through online voting for the last spot on the All-Star team.

He hasn't been sharp since, and the right-handed sidearm
reliever said he believes problems with his shoulder and elbow are
to blame -- stemming from a busy summer for him on the mound.

Neshek has not pitched this week, due to the fatigue.

"He needs a little bit of a break here, and that's what he's
getting," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Neshek's ERA was as low as 1.48 in late July, but he has lost
his dominance over the last two months. His shoulder started
wearing down, and that led him to overcompensate with his elbow.
Even his parents noticed from the seats on Sunday that his
mechanics were off.

"That's the first thing they said after my last outing: 'Gee,
something's really not right here for sure,'" Neshek said.

The coaching staff is aware of and sympathetic toward his tired
arm, but there could be more to his recent struggles. When Neshek
has thrown his fastball consistently, he's been better.

"He got in the habit of slider, slider, slider -- just fell in
love with it -- and he kept throwing it," Gardenhire said. "Some
of it was that, and some of it more recently was where his arm
strength is down."

A native of Brooklyn Park who still lives in the Twin Cities
year-round, Neshek maintains a popular blog and was fast becoming a
fan favorite with his soaring strikeout totals, quirky personality
and unusual delivery. With Jesse Crain out for the season following
shoulder surgery and Juan Rincon having the worst year of his
career, Neshek quickly became the eighth-inning setup man for
closer Joe Nathan.

But as the injuries added up in Minnesota's bullpen, Neshek was
called on more and more. He's third in the AL with 74 appearances,
and he estimated he's been asked to warm up over 100 times this
year. Though he pitched more innings last season between Triple-A
Rochester and the Twins, Neshek has used his arm more in 2007 than
ever before.

That's why he's OK with the rest right now. He sounded as if
he's ready to stop pitching for the year, too, with his team well
out of the playoff race.

"I'd like to get an MRI maybe, just for peace of mind," Neshek
said. "It's definitely the right thing to shut it down. If you go
throw, you can do more damage. ... Now I can just rehab and build
it back up."

On Sunday against Detroit, Neshek gave up two runs, two hits and
one walk while only recording two outs. Though he still has 74
strikeouts in 70 1/3 innings and an opponent batting average of
.183, Neshek's ERA rose to 2.94.

In his last 25 appearances, starting on July 24, his ERA is 6.23
with 22 hits and 11 walks allowed in 21 1/3 innings.

"I haven't gotten a lot of strikeouts the last
month-and-a-half, and that's just not me as a pitcher," Neshek
said. "Definitely, something's up."

He felt it on Sunday against the Tigers.

"I came in, and it was like being at a gun fight with a knife.
You're just not going to win out there with what you have," Neshek
said.

He said he could have taken his offseason conditioning program
more seriously.

"But that's kind of unfair, too," Neshek said. "I worked
pretty hard. I've been used a lot."