Zulgad: Poor outing doesn't put damper on Neshek's All-Star experience
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Pat Neshek entered the All-Star Game for the National League in the fifth inning Tuesday night at Target Field with the score tied at 3. The St. Louis reliever promptly surrendered two runs and three hits to the AL squad while getting only one out and ended up taking the loss in the 5-3 defeat.
This might have led to an assumption that the outing would have ruined the homecoming for the former Twin and Brooklyn Park native. That assumption, however, would have been wildly inaccurate.
A smiling Neshek left Target Field with a treasure trove of memories and a smile on his face, despite the fact he gave up one fewer run on Tuesday than he had in 38.1 innings with the Cardinals all season.
"It sucks that that happened but what are you going to do?" Neshek said. "It's such a weird feeling. Pitching out there, it's a different catcher, you've got different guys running around and you can kind of feel a little out of your element for a little bit. You hope your stuff is there. Tonight I didn't get ahead of anybody and that's what happens. You are facing the best guys."
Neshek started out in good shape, taking a toss from Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt after he made a nice diving stop of a sharply hit ball by Oakland's Josh Donaldson. But the A's Derek Norris and White Sox's Alexei Ramirez both singled to left off the sidearm pitcher before the Angels' Mike Trout doubled down the left-field line to score Norris and move Ramirez to third.
Neshek was pulled by NL manager Mike Matheny, who also is Neshek's manager with the Cardinals, and replaced by Washington's Tyler Clippard. Houston's Jose Altuve hit a sacrifice fly to left that scored Ramirez.
"It wasn't so much nerves," said Neshek, who hadn't given up a run in a game since June 3. "I was actually really relaxed and I think that might have been the problem. ... My stuff was terrible. My fastball was barely breaking 90 out there and it just felt weird. I'm kind of glad to get that out of my system. It sucks, there's a lot on the line, but you're going to have those days."
For the most part, this has been a dream season for Neshek. He began his big-league career with the Twins (2006-2010) before making stops in San Diego (2011) and Oakland (2012-13).
Neshek was the longest of long shots to be on the NL All-Star roster, considering he arrived at the Cardinals camp this spring as a non-roster invitee who had signed a minor league contract.
But overcoming that challenge was nothing compared to what Neshek and his wife, Stephanee, have faced. The couple's first son, Gehrig John, was born in early October 2012 but lived only 23 hours.
The adversity through which Neshek has battled made it all the more touching when he received a loud ovation as he was introduced with the NL team along the third-base line on Tuesday. Neshek clearly was moved by the reception he received.
"That was pretty awesome," he said. That was probably one of the highlights of my career. ... I was overwhelmed. I didn't expect that."
For good measure, Neshek was announced as a former member of the Park Center Pirates. That was an added touch he didn't know was coming. "They went through some of guys so quick I was like, 'OK, this will be kind of cool here,'" he said. "That made my night."
Neshek has done countless interviews since being named to the All-Star Game more than a week ago and the fact it was played in his home state made it that much more enjoyable. It also made it that much more taxing.
He described the past week as a "whirlwind," although he wasn't complaining.
"I haven't had time to sleep," Neshek said. "I'm kind of looking forward to it. I'm kind of glad this is over now. It's been two days of just a lot of stuff. Hanging out with friends and family. It's a little much and I'm kind of looking forward to just taking some downtime now."
With a few days to rest, Neshek plans to remain in the Twin Cities on Wednesday before heading back to St. Louis with his family. Pat and Stephanee had a son, Hoyt Robert, in March 2014.
"We're going to drive back to St. Louis and maybe stop at the Field of Dreams (in Dyersville, Iowa) and stuff like that," he said. "Just enjoy the time off."
Neshek also likely will enjoy the memories of everything about this All-Star Game, even if his pitching line wasn't what he wanted.
"He got a chance to come pitch in front of the fans that watched him when he was here," Twins All-Star closer Glen Perkins said of his former teammate. "The chance that he got to go out and throw is the neatest thing. I watched him when he came off the field. He got high-fives from his teammates. That's more what it's about than if you win or lose. It's the experience and he got to pitch in front of Minnesotans being a Minnesotan. If I were him, I wouldn't be sad."