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Updated: March 20th, 2011 1:21pm
Pat Neshek placed on outright waivers, claimed by Padres

Pat Neshek placed on outright waivers, claimed by Padres

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Minnesota Twins right-hander Pat Neshek is headed west.

Placed on outright waivers by the Twins on Friday, Neshek was claimed by the San Diego Padres on Sunday.

"It's a good opportunity for him," general manager Bill Smith said. "It was leaning toward him being one of the odd guys out of the bullpen, and the Padres were looking for a reliever, so it's a good opportunity for Pat Neshek."

By placing Neshek on outright waivers -- if he would have passed through -- the Twins had the option of removing him from the 40-man roster.

Because Neshek also had one minor-league option remaining, the Twins could have simply kept him on the 40-man roster and sent him to Triple-A Rochester to begin the season if they felt like he wasn't worthy of a spot on the 25-man roster.

Smith would not confirm whether the Twins looked at potential trade options.

"It's just one of the decisions we had," Smith said. "It opens up a roster spot for us, and roster flexibility is always something that's important as you get into the season."

As of right now, however, the Twins will keep the extra roster spot open.

After emerging as one of the Twins' most dominant relief pitchers at times in 2006 and 2007, Neshek underwent Tommy John surgery in late-2008 and missed the entire 2009 season.

He earned a spot on the 25-man roster out of spring training in 2010, but was eventually sidelined with a finger injury. That injury also caused a minor rift with manager Ron Gardenhire when Neshek tweeted about a misdiagnosis by the team's medical staff. As it turned out, the source of Neshek's sore finger came from inflammation in his palm.

The side-winding right-hander eventually wound up at Triple-A Rochester after the pain in his hand went away, and he spent the entire summer with the Red Wings until being called back up to the big leagues in September.

Smith insists Sunday's roster move had nothing to do with Neshek falling out of favor with the ball club.

"If he had fallen out of favor, we wouldn't have called him up last September when we did, and we wouldn't have re-signed him. Pat, you know, he went through a tough stretch. Anytime you go through that Tommy John surgery, he had a tough go. He came back, he worked hard, and last August he was throwing the ball as well as anyone in the bullpen in Rochester, which is the reason that we called him up. He didn't do as well in September as we had hoped, and I think he probably was out of gas."

"Anything that was an issue before is long behind us."

At his peak in 2006 and 2007 -- when he struck out 127 batters in 107 1/3 innings -- Neshek's fastball averaged 91 mph, and his biting slider was difficult to identify, especially for right-handed hitters. Near the end of last season, however, Neshek's velocity dipped into the mid-80's.

This spring, two years removed from surgery, the Twins have clocked Neshek's fastball as high as 89 mph, and his slider appears to have much more bite than at this time one year ago.

"He has made strides," Smith said. "His velocity continues to creep up a little bit. And it's probably still a work in progress for him, but it just -- he's going to have a couple guys ahead of him this spring, and we felt this was the right move."

"We have some other guys that have pitched well and moved ahead of him at this time on our depth chart."

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
In this story: Ron Gardenhire, Pat Neshek
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