Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Q&A with Pat Neshek
Twins Relief Pitcher
Good morning all! It is time for another Q&A. Now, most Q&As that you find here are minor leaguers and they are doing their first Q&A. Today is something a little different. First, obviously Pat Neshek is a big leaguer. He has been with the Twins since his call up right before the All-Star break in 2006. He has been a key contributor in the Twins bullpen ever since. In the first half of 2007, eh was so good that he was nominated for the final AL All-Star roster spot. Also, Pat Neshek is a veteran of the SethSpeaks Q&As. This will be the sixth Q&A that he has done for this site. The first was before the 2005 season. We then did one after the 2005 season, before the 2006 season, an interactive Q&A (reader questions) right before he was called up to the Twins, and finally before the 2007 season. And here we are following the 2007 season with another Q&A. So, you won’t see the same questions that you see in a typical Q&A. With Pat we can talk about the big leagues, statistics, his blog, collecting and really a number of topics. I hope you enjoy this, and if you like this, be sure to check out the other Q&As that we have been able to have here on the site.
Finally, let me know what you think. Feel free to e-mail me any questions or comments. Or, leave some comments at the bottom and discuss. Who knows? Maybe Pat will check it out and be willing to answer some of your questions here. Pat Neshek has become a great big league relief pitcher. But part of what I enjoy about following Neshek is that he just gets it. He understands his role as a player, but also as a role model. He signs autographs. He does charity work. He updates his own blog. He has a message board on which he actively participates. He gets that the game is about the fans. I know that saying that Pat Neshek gets it is an oversimplification of what he does and what he means, but I really mean that as a compliment.
Let the Questions Begin!
SethSpeaks: First of all, how is the shoulder/arm feeling at this time?
Pat Neshek: Arm is ready to pitch and has been fine the entire time. I got kind of tired near the end of the season and it got to the point where my shoulder was worn out and it was starting to hurt my elbow a little. I learned a bunch of new exercises to strengthen my arm and I'm doing them like crazy and ready for another year of pitching a lot. This year I will be prepared for a long season.
SethSpeaks: You had an amazing 2006 season between Rochester and your big league debut. Heading into the 2007 were there any specific goals that you wanted to attain?
You know I don't really like setting goals to much. I like
to set challenges for myself. I think in the preseason I said I wanted to
have an ERA in the 2's and strikeout a guy an inning, have a whip under
1 and not give up too many inherited runners. Those same
goals/challenges I want to have for this upcoming season but I really want to
go after 100 k's for the season. I think with my shoulder
staying strong which will make a strong slider I should be able to make a good
run at that.
SethSpeaks: You got off to an incredible start and were so good in the first half that Jim Leyland put you on the ballot for the final AL All-Star roster spot. That had to be a great honor going against guys like Jeremy Bonderman and Roy Halladay. How did it feel when you heard that news?
Pat Neshek: Well, I thought it was pretty neat that Jim Leyland picked me as one of the last guys he thought should be an All Star. He has been around forever and, from what I hear, he is one of the best managers to play for, so knowing he selected me meant the world. I also was excited because you don't really hear of relief pitchers making the All Star team. It was a huge honor and I really liked my chances until Lew Ford came over to me in the clubhouse and said I had no shot because I was up against the Nation of Japan. He was right -- Okajima had a lot of internet fans in Japan! But overall I thought it was cool a small name like myself beat out Roy Halladay and K Escobar. I would've like to have seen a final vote total though, they never released the final numbers for some reason.
SethSpeaks: The readers and fans of your blog really came through with a strong attempt to get you onto the team. It came up a little short but still had to make you feel pretty good about the support you got.
Pat Neshek: It was one of the best experiences I ever had in my life going through that vote. I think the coolest thing was that it was at the Big League level and it got a lot of media attention. If nothing else we made a ton of new fans and it was good for baseball.
SethSpeaks: Much has been made about some of the struggles you had late in the season. You never made excuses and on your site and other places you talked about just not making pitches. Looking back, how much of the struggle was based on the tired arm?
Pat Neshek: Baseball is a crazy game and that last month had me shaking my head. There were numerous times where all I had to do was make one good pitch and I was out of the inning and instead I hung a slider and gave up a 3 run bomb. I def noticed my arm was tired just by how my slider was not moving. When that pitch isn't on I'm in trouble and I think that coupled with bad luck and not making pitches all had something to do with me not finishing strong. But like I said baseball is a game of inches and not much separates an awesome era and a good era. In a lot of cases it's getting one bad pitch back or not getting a call from an ump...Baseball makes you humble and that's what makes it fun and gets players to come back and try harder. Everyone is chasing perfection and in baseball nobody is perfect yet it is fun to keep trying every year :)
SethSpeaks: I've asked you this every year, but must ask it again. What is your plan for the offseason? What will your routine be and when will you start throwing?
Pat Neshek: Same as always, right now I'm lifting and running and doing things like body boarding in the ocean, playing tennis...anything that promotes flexibility is what I'm going for. Once January hits I will start throwing as well as continuing to lift.
SethSpeaks: Outside of baseball, what else do you have planned for the offseason?
Pat Neshek: Just to kick back and relax...The season has enough emotion to make someone insane so us players def need the offseason to relax and recoup.
SethSpeaks: As a rookie, you were in the bullpen of a playoff team. In 2007, the Twins weren't a playoff team and I think we knew that fairly early. What was the feeling with the players and in the clubhouse? Was there always a belief that the team would comeback?
Pat Neshek: You know we always thought we would make the playoffs and up until the trading deadline I think we were within reach. I think the belief in a comeback was in all of our heads until the games behind started to pile up. That is what I love about our team, we never think we are out.
SethSpeaks: Alright, one of the big questions or concerns about you was how left-handers hit against you. I know that you worked on a changeup to use against lefties last offseason. Well, righties hit .185 against you while lefties hit just .181. Your WHIP against lefties was 1.10. How do you think you progressed against left-handed hitters?
Pat Neshek: I think I did great against lefties but I still need to get better. It was just nice to shut up the critics and like I said before they were just saying it because that was the only stat that was out of wack. I never understood why that was such a big deal, I think in 2006 the Avg against was like 240 which was like 5th on the team...Nobody ever complain about the other guys not getting lefties out. I think sometimes it's just a bunch of clueless reporters who are covering a game they don't know much about and are only doing it because that's the only job that's open in the journalism field. You have to remember that reporters are meant to create stories and the game of baseball is entertainment...I just take it personal sometimes because I don't like thinking about baseball as a business and it also sucks having people play with your life so easily...especially people that don't really understand the game.
SethSpeaks: Last year it was a new pitch to use against lefties. Is there anything in particular that you will be trying to add to your pitching scheme this offseason?
Pat Neshek: Not really I just think the biggest thing is that I now understand how long the season is and that I have to prepare better. That means lifting hard the entire season and strengthening my arm as well. I think if this is done I will have a great year.
SethSpeaks: How do you explain: 1.69 ERA in night games... 4.68 ERA in day games? (Seth Note - small sample :) )
Pat Neshek: I like to go out late! Just kidding...anyone that knows me knows that I very rarely go out...I think my teammates would be shocked if they saw me out after a game. I don't know what that stat is all about...It's kind of weird because when I was in the minors I had the same problem...my era was great at night and terrible during the day. I'm glad you are bringing that stat up because it just shows something is wrong and I need to do something about it. I think for night games I just prepare better, whereas day games we usually come out an hour before the game and kind of just wing it...I def need to keep the same program but it's tough when our team pulls a show and go. I will make an attempt to squash this problem this year.
SethSpeaks: I know you look at your numbers and there are certain that you probably look into more than others. What are a couple of your 2007 stats that you are happy with? Likewise, what are a couple of the numbers that you would like to improve upon?
Pat Neshek: You know I was very pleased with the season. I would have liked more K's, I think I walked more than I wanted but a lot were attributed to IBB's and you can do nothing about those. My hits were really good this year and I think I will have a tough time doing better than that but I will make a good run at that. Improvements...let's see, I'm checking the numbers again...I think I would've liked a lower ERA especially where I was in July but that's baseball. Walks is something I would def like to improve on for this season and that starts by getting ahead of hitters.
SethSpeaks: Late in the season, Terry Ryan surprised a lot of people when he resigned. How and when did the players find out about that decision, and what was the general feeling among the players when it happened?
Pat Neshek: I found out when my mom heard it on the radio and called me... Sure enough when I googled it something came up and I was shocked. I don't think any of us expected that or saw it coming. I could totally understand how Terry was feeling, this game will def make you insane and wear you down. I totally understand and respect his decision.
SethSpeaks: As a player who is certain to be on the Twins 2008 roster and beyond, how do you avoid complacency? How do you keep the motivation?
Pat Neshek: That's a good question and something each of us has to go through. I think the best thing is to set challenges and goals to go after. Most of my motivation for me is my family, making my parents proud, seeing my brothers happy watching games and knowing my wife and I will have a secure future is what really keeps me going.
SethSpeaks: You always hear pitchers talk about how they don't look at the batter, but get the catcher's sign and location and make their pitches. However, I have to ask... when you struck out Sammy Sosa or Frank Thomas, you have to at least think that it is pretty cool. Or, when someone like Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez and other greats of the game, do you amp up, or do you have to protect yourself against that?
Pat Neshek: You
know for the most part every pitcher is aware of who they are facing and what
they can do to you. Also guys like Frank Thomas are pretty tough not to
notice, he's a monster in the box. I pretty much get amped up facing the
newest rookie or the next Hall of Famer...for me it's the big leagues and a
time to shine so I'm amped just to be on the mound and that's enough for me to
SethSpeaks: I've read in interviews with you that you spend a lot of time each morning reading blogs and other sites online. What are you looking for on these sites? Scouting reports? Stats? Entertainment?
Pat Neshek: I don't know what I'm looking for, I guess it's just to stay fresh and up to date...kind of like how people read a newspaper every morning. I guess just to find something out or hear info that is new and what's going on in the world.
SethSpeaks: Can you discuss your thoughts on the value of blogs as opposed to more mainstream media?
Pat Neshek: Blogs are much more in-depth and have more reasoning to what is posted for the most part. Mainstream media is about sensationalism and making a story and having connections to try and get a story first. For the most part blogs are for people that really understand the game and the media is for people who just want to read a story or see how the team is doing. There are + and - for both categories and you can sit here forever and debate about which is better...I guess you just take what you want from each!
SethSpeaks: Beat writers are probably constantly being asked what so-and-so ballplayer is like in person. To turn that around, tell us a little bit about the Twins beat writers.
Pat Neshek: Beat writers have a tough job. First off they have to follow around the same team all year and cover it. Second they have to get a story and a lot of the times us players are too mad to talk about it. Lastly they have to watch what they print or else there will be an outrage amongst readers. I have a lot of respect for beat writers it's a tough job with long hours.
I'm not going to put you on the spot and ask you questions about Torii Hunter or Nick Punto, but there are a couple of guys I would like your thoughts on.
SethSpeaks: What does having Joe Nathan at the backend of the bullpen mean to a team?
He's what makes our bullpen, the foundation...without him it
would be tough and we would all have different roles and probably wouldn't
work as well.
SethSpeaks: Matt Guerrier went from long relief (where he was good) to being a key contributor and performed great in more high-leverage situations in 2007. Tell us a little about Guerrier and how his confidence had to improve greatly over the season.
Pat Neshek: It
was awesome to see him get a chance and run with it. Both of us really
had to step up a little when a couple of the guys went down and Matty tore it
SethSpeaks: If you were a pitching coach, what are a few "rules for the bullpen" that you would want to abide by? (for instance, warming up, pitch count, situation, etc. To help - for instance, I happen to think that if you are brought in with the bases loaded and two outs and gets out of the inning, should he just be done?)
Pat Neshek: If I were running a bullpen I would have no rules...basically if you are in the majors you should be able to fend for yourself. I would do things though like count pitches thrown and keep track of pitch counts and make sure guys were ok to pitch. This is basically what we do now and it works the best.
SethSpeaks: Again, I'm not going to put you on the spot and ask specific questions, but in general, what do you think that the Twins need to do in the offseason for 2008? Rebuild? Major overhaul? Minor tweeking?
Pat Neshek: I think as of right now we are going to put a competitive team out on the field. I'm ready to win some games and will to back down and I think that goes for the rest of the Twins. Detroit is gong to be tough and have an unreal lineup and Cleveland is coming back with a stacked team. It's going to be tough but I'm ready for the challenge.
SethSpeaks: On your website, you talk about collectibles and autographs a lot. In fact, you were able to get some of your teammates to trade in some of their game-used equipment (signed) for packages of autographs and such from your readers. What type of reception do other players and people around the team do you get?
Pat Neshek: They can't believe people out there want that type of stuff. Lecroy and Redmond use to always joke with me about giving me his jock strap to auction off...I told him I would and people out there would want it...He just laughed. I think it's great to be able to bring the niche fans and players together. At first I was the same way I didn't think it would be big...It's been a big hit.
SethSpeaks: Some of my favorite things on your site throughout the year were some of the letters you shared from people asking for crazy autograph requests for you and your teammates. Tell us a couple more funny autograph stories (in-person or letters) from the year.
Pat Neshek: Funny stories, just about every week I get crazy letters. I never get the ones that expect you to send a package back to them and pay for it...Or the ones that tell me to send them a ball. I got one the other day from a fan that had an expired Iowa License plate that said STRYK 3...I was shocked because mine is pretty similar. Everyday is a new story and that is why I like opening mail. Another funny one was from a brother of an olympic athlete on the women's curling team...He wanted me to say hi to her and her friends at a game,..He included signed photos and told me to stop by with a ball and say hi...it made me laugh.
SethSpeaks: I enjoy checking out the message boards on your site and woudl encourage all readers to sign up. Pat, tell my readers a little more of what happens on your message boards and how many members there are, and why they should check it out? You are actually quite active on the boards which makes it quite entertaining.
Pat Neshek: I go on there a lot and just chat with fans...if nothing else it's a place to share stories and talk about everything collecting and getting autographs...Of course there's other things to talk about and it's a pretty neat place to be on. Right now there are 4500 members that have signed up.
A big thank you to Pat Neshek for taking the time to answer all of these questions. Let me know what you think. Send me an e-mail, or let's talk about it in the Comments here. That is it for today!