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 Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.
Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.
The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.
After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.
Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:
The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.
The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.