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Updated: June 17th, 2011 7:38pm
Catching up with former Twins relievers Pat Neshek and Jesse Crain

Catching up with former Twins relievers Pat Neshek and Jesse Crain

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- With the San Diego Padres in town for a weekend series, and with the Chicago White Sox passing through earlier in the week, the Minnesota Twins reunited with two familiar faces -- relievers Pat Neshek and Jesse Crain.

Neshek was claimed off waivers by the Padres on March 20, and he owns a 3.57 ERA with 16 strikeouts and 13 walks in 17 2/3 innings. He was sent to Triple-A Tucson in late-April for three weeks, but was recalled again in mid-May.

Replacing starter Clayton Richard in the sixth inning with runners on first and second and nobody out, Neshek received a pleasant ovation. After retiring Jason Repko and Ben Revere on flyouts, Neshek walked Alexi Casilla to load the bases for Joe Mauer, who lined out to left to end the inning.

Crain, who turns 30 in July, signed a three-year, $13 million deal with the White Sox in December following perhaps his best season as a Twin. The right-hander posted a 3.04 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 68 innings in 2010, becoming perhaps the Twins' most reliable reliever after stumbling through an extremely slow start.

Sporting a 3.07 ERA with 28 strikeouts and 15 walks in 29 1/3 innings this season, Crain faced just one batter in the short series, getting Michael Cuddyer to fly out to end the bottom of the eighth inning on Thursday. The Target Field crowd reacted with a mix of cheers and boos when Crain came trotting out of the bullpen.

Here's what the two former Twins had to say:

Neshek

On his initial reaction to being placed on waivers and claimed by Padres

The best word is probably bittersweet I'd say. For that week before (I was waived), I knew everybody passed me up there. I didn't know why. I mean, I got the opportunity, but I didn't feel like anybody was really taking me serious. And it was nice to see a team like the Padres -- and I follow a lot of the baseball transactions -- and to see a team like that with great pitching want to take a chance on me, you can't get more motivated than that. I was happy with that. It was sad leaving behind the fan base, all the stuff I worked towards, all the stuff I did in my community, for my hometown. I was sad, but I knew it had to happen.

Do you wish things would have worked out in Minnesota?

Of course, that's the ideal situation. But there comes a time when you're not getting that opportunity. Minnesota, that's my ideal place. I never would have left. I mean, I wish I would have stayed healthy, never had that Tommy John and stuff like that ... My family's all decked out in Twins stuff. I don't know what to do with that stuff anymore. What do you do? My car's got a Twins emblem. I didn't expect it to happen. I thought as long as I pitched well I'd stay, but that's how the game works.

Crain

On being back in the Twin Cities

It's a little different being on this side. It's three months into it, this is kind of the last step of being on the other side -- coming back and playing against these guys at home. It's good to be back and to see the guys. This is the place I lived for a long time, so it's good.

On transition to becoming a White Sox

It's been really smooth. The guys are great. The pitching staff has been good. They've welcomed me with opened arms. We're all baseball players -- everybody moves on, so it's been a pretty easy transition

On the struggles throughout the AL Central

I think it started off a little different than everybody had planned, but this division is always going to be tight. At the end, it's probably going to be the same as it usually is, with a tight race between three teams. That's baseball for you. You never know how it's going to play out.

On struggles of the Twins bullpen

I knew coming in, they lost me and Matty Guerrier, who had 70-plus appearances per year, and (Jon) Rauch and (Brian) Fuentes, I knew it would be a lot of innings and appearances to fill. But they've got good arms over there. That's what they are known for doing, bringing up guys from the minor leagues who they can plug in and perform well. That's what they did with me and Guerrier, and (Juan) Rincon before that. It's just one of those years where they are finding out who can pitch.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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