Neshek feeling good after Tommy John surgery

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Pat Neshek reported to the Twins’ spring training complex early to get back on the mound and face live hitters again 14 months after Tommy John elbow surgery. And because he’s a blogger in addition to being a side-arming setup man, Neshek wrote an interesting update on his progress:

On Tuesday I faced hitters for the first time and things went great. One of the hitters I faced back in November … said that I had a lot more zip on the ball this time around. … On Friday I faced hitters again. It took me a couple days to get over the soreness, normal soreness I should say from pitching a couple innings worth of hitters.



My velocity felt good but I felt like it still wasn’t where I was at during my peak. On the other hand my slider was a ton better and got some remarks from the hitters. I asked both guys what they thought my velocity was and they said I was sitting most likely around 88-89 on my fastball. … With this injury you slowly get your velo back by doing more and more mound work and feeling comfortable with mechanics. I was really happy because in November my fastball high speeds were 85 & 86.

Prior to the injury Neshek had a 2.91 ERA, 143 strikeouts, and .188 opponents’ batting average in 121 innings while averaging just 89.9 miles per hour with his fastball, so it sounds like most of his velocity has already returned. Minnesota has made a bunch of nice moves this offseason, but getting Neshek back at something resembling his old self could push the Twins over the top in the AL Central.
Oh, and speaking of Neshek, he gets some pretty amazing “fan” mail.

The Nats are sniffing around for relief pitching help

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The Nationals began the year with Blake Treinen as their closer. That didn’t last long, and now Koda Glover seems to be Dusty Baker’s man in the ninth inning. He earned a save for the second consecutive game yesterday. Glover has been pretty darn good in the early going, posting a 2.35 ERA and striking out six batters and walking only one in seven and two-thirds. That obviously a small sample size, and anything can happen. If it does, Baker has Shawn Kelley as an option.

Not many household names there, which is probably why the Nationals are reported to be interested in the White Sox’ David Robertson and Alex Colome of the Rays. That report comes from Jim Bowden of ESPN, who also notes that the A’s have a number of guys with closing experience on staff and are likely to be sellers too. The David Robertson thing may have more legs, though, given that Mike Rizzo and Rick Hahn pulled off a pretty major trade in the offseason. If you know a guy well, you call that guy first, right?

As far as problems go this isn’t a huge one. The Nats sit at 13-5 and, as expected by most prognosticators, are in first place in the National League East. The Cubs had some questions in the pen this time last year too. They had the luxury of trying to figure it out before making a massive trade for a closer. The Nats do too, and likely will. But expect them to be a part of any trade rumor conversation for the next couple of months.

 

The big flaw in modern ballparks

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Travis Sawchik writes about the post-Camden Yards generation of ballparks over at FanGraphs. The ones everyone loves because they’re nice and clean and friendly and are full of amenities. And that’s true! They are nice! But they all have a huge flaw: unless you’re in expensive seats, you’re too far away from the action.

Sawchik uses cross sections of ballparks — available at Andrew Clem’s website — to show that fans sitting in the upper decks of ballparks are way higher and way farther back than they used to be at many old ballparks such as Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, Old Comiskey, Tiger Stadium and Ebbets Field.

A lot of this has to do with an admirable impulse: to eliminate the beams which obstructed the view of many seats in those old parks. If you want to move that upper deck closer to the field, you have to have the beams because one can only achieve so much via cantilever effect. But that’s not the only impulse and probably not the primary one. More expansive lower bowls — which feature more expensive tickets — push the upper deck back and up. As do the luxury suites and club level amenities in between the lower and upper decks. Exacerbating this is the fact that most newer parks are built on vast tracts of land with few architectural constraints. If you can sprawl, you will, which leaves the most affordable seats in the land of binoculars.

I don’t agree with everything Sawchik writes here. He spends a lot of time talking about how much better neighborhood parks like Wrigley Field are and how it’d be better if newer parks were built in neighborhoods. I agree, neighborhood parks are ideal, but the fact is, most places don’t have mass transit like Chicago does. In most cities you have to have a place for 40,000 people to park.

That’s a quibble, though. Mostly, it’s a good look at an important thing most folks overlook when they praise the new parks. Important because, if you don’t have an enjoyable experience at the ballpark, you’re not likely to come back. And if you’re not fortunate enough to be able to buy expensive tickets, you may not have a great experience at the ballpark.