Padres take a chance on reliever Neshek

Padres take a chance on reliever Neshek

Padres take a chance on reliever Neshek
PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres rolled the dice a little on Sunday, taking a $625,000 gamble by betting that relief pitcher Pat Neshek, claimed off waivers from the Twins, will help them this season.

It might not be on Opening Day, though.

The Padres claimed the 30-year-old right-hander not only to help give them bullpen depth, but also to serve as insurance if right-handed reliever Ernesto Frieri -- limited to three appearances this spring due to a sore shoulder -- encounters any complications moving forward.

Either way, Neshek will have to win a job -- and will have to do so in a hurry, as the Padres have nine Cactus League games remaining after Sunday's 4-1 loss to Seattle.

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"It's too early to say that," said Padres general manager Jed Hoyer, when asked if Neshek is guaranteed to make the Opening Day roster. "He has to compete for a job."

Neshek had one Minor League option remaining.

Neshek was a dependable set-up man for Twins closer Joe Nathan in Minnesota in 2006 and again in 2007 -- when he posted a 2.94 ERA, and allowed 44 hits in 70 1/3 innings and had 74 strikeouts.

But Neshek appeared in only 15 games with the Twins in 2008 before being placed on the disabled list on May 9 with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He had subsequent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2009 season.

Neshek started the 2010 season on the Twins' Opening Day roster, but went on the disabled list on May 2 with an inflamed right middle finger. He had a 3.89 ERA in 30 games with the Twins' Triple-A team in Rochester.

Neshek returned to the Twins in September, but posted a 5.79 ERA in five appearances.

"He's made strides and his velocity has continued to creep up a little bit, but it's probably still a work in progress for him," Twins general manager Bill Smith told MLB.com.

The Padres had no fewer than three scouts watch Neshek pitch in Florida this month, and the consensus was that he could still pitch, even though his velocity -- clocked anywhere between 85-88 mph -- hasn't returned to where it was before he had surgery, when he routinely threw between 91-93 mph.

"This is a guy who was dominant before surgery," Hoyer said of Neshek, who has a 3.05 career ERA.

Neshek posted a 4.26 ERA over six relief appearances for the Twins this spring, with five strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.

The Padres feel that Neshek, who manager Bud Black says has a funky sidearm delivery, can be someone who is useful out of the bullpen.

The Padres also announced Sunday that they optioned outfielder Luis Durango and right-handed pitcher Samuel Deduno to Triple-A Tucson.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.