Monday, October 8, 2012

Two old friends in the playoffs

Pat Neshek pitched Saturday against the Detroit Tigers,
getting a groundout and a strikeout from his two batters.
The patch on his throwing shoulder reads "GJN," the
initials of his son, who was born Tuesday and died Wednesday.
Pat Neshek and Lew Ford aren't stars and aren't regulars. Neither spent the whole season in the majors.

But both ex-Twins are in the playoffs, and considering the trajectories of their careers, that's impressive. And in Neshek's case, maybe a bit more.

I noted on the blog last week that Neshek's wife gave birth Tuesday to their son, Gehrig, and that the baby died less than 24 hours later, with no explanation.

When the A's released their roster Friday for the Divisional Series against Detroit, Neshek was on it. And when the series opened, Neshek pitched — two batters, two outs. Like the rest of his teammates, he was wearing a reminder of his loss. And he wore it well, pitching from his fog of grief.

Neshek had — I'm shifting here strictly to pitching — a good if rather baffling season in 2012, reviving a career that appeared moribund. The Twins, you'll recall, waived him in spring training 2011, even though he had an option left; the move suggested that the team had little expectation that he could return to his form of 2006-07.

The Padres picked him up, and he walked 22 men in 25 major league innings. They released him after the season, and the Orioles signed him. He put up decent numbers in Triple A, but the O's sold him to Oakland in early August rather than use him themselves. And Neshek played a bit role in the bullpen depth of an exceedingly young A's team. A bit role, but an effective one: 24 games, 19.2 innings, 1.37 ERA.
Russell Martin, the Yankees catcher, makes sure
Lew Ford touches the plate as the former Twin scores
a third-inning run  Sunday night.

Neshek's 32; Ford is 36. Neshek had been ineffective since 2007; Ford's been out of the majors since 2007. Last year Ford was reduced to playing in an independent league.

That's stubborn.

Ford was called up in late July. He never got his batting average above .205, but he stuck.

And on Sunday he was in the starting lineup for Baltimore. In Game One of the ALDS, he and his .183/.256/.352 slash line started against CC Sabathia. And he doubled, singled and scored a run. Of course he did.

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