Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pat Neshek: The key to the 'pen

It's a week of celebration here at NoDak Twins Fan. Pitchers and catchers report on Friday and it is also the one year anniversary of this site.

All week I will be taking a look at various story lines that will impact the Twins during this year's Spring Training. Here is how those stories have broke down so far...
Monday- Joe Nathan: To baby or not to baby
Tuesday- Pat Neshek: The key to the 'pen

This entire offseason there has been one thing that I have repeatedly felt needed to be added to the Twins to increase their chances to contend in the Central Division in '11. Morneau's health, Nathan's arm, and Pavano's return were all important parts of the plan, but question marks in the bullpen were something that I felt needed to be addressed. I wanted the Twins to be able to add one veteran arm to the mix that had a proven track record. In the world of major league relief pitching, finding a "proven" veteran can be a tiring task.

The Twins have added players like Dusty Hughes, Scott Diamond, and Jim Hoey. This list of players isn't going to jump out at any Twins fans but they have the potential to fit different needs with the team. Overall there is one player that can hold the key to the Twins bullpen success in 2011. In the past he has shown that he can be an excellent relief pitcher, but Tommy John surgery in 2008 has led him down an alternate path. The player is Pat Neshek and his role on the 2011 Twins is one of crucial importance.

Coming out of Spring Training last season the Twins picked Pat Neshek to be part of the major league roster. He pitched in six games in the first month of the season and didn't give up a run until a late April game in Detroit. Most of the rest of Neshek's season would be spent at the minor league level. His strikeout to walk ratio dropped significantly and he lost speed on his pitches. One of the keys to Neshek's side winding delivery is deception and movement. With the loss of speed on his pitches, the movement on the ball also dwindled.

Neshek spent the offseason working on a variety of things to improve the areas that were his weaknesses in the 2010. For the first time since the surgery he was able to have a "normal" offseason of rest and recovery. After allowing his body to fully recover from the grind of the season he started a strength and condition program to build up muscle. This added muscle is an attempt to get back some of the velocity and deception that were missing last year.

This offseason workout model seems to compare similar to the plan that was followed by Francisco Liriano as he made his comeback from the same surgery as Neshek. Twins fans saw the success that Liriano was able to produce in his first full season following a "normal" offseason. This return to normalcy is one of the steps that can lead to a prosperous season for the Minnesota native.

I wanted the Twins to be able to add a proven veteran arm to the mix in the bullpen and that wish was not granted. There is still hope in many Twins fans that the bullpen situation will work itself out. Neshek having a successful season will not only iron-out some of those wrinkles but it could be one key to the team continuing their reign in the Central Division.

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