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Pat Neshek says going to the Phillies was “the best thing that happened to me in a few years”

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36-year-old Pat Neshek is having the best season of his career, owning a 0.82 ERA with a 21/4 K/BB ratio in 22 innings for the Phillies. Manager Pete Mackanin has even entrusted the right-hander in a save situation recently and planned to do so again on Wednesday if the Phillies happened to hold a ninth-inning lead. The only problem is that the Phillies, at 21-36, are currently baseball’s worst team, so Neshek’s contributions almost certainly won’t help his team win a championship.

Still, Neshek says the offseason trade that sent him from the Astros — currently baseball’s best team at 42-18 — to the Phillies was “the best thing that happened to me in a few years,” CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports.

Neshek explained why he became frustrated with his role with the Astros last season.

I kind of became a bit player there. In ’15, I did a lot of eighth-inning stuff and I think I was second or third in the league in holds, but I had a bad final month where they kind of just gave up on me. In ’16, I just became a sixth-inning righty specialist guy and it was awful. I knew I could do a lot more. So when the trade (to the Phillies) happened I was thrilled. This was the best thing that happened to me in a few years.

I can understand why (the Astros) did it. They have a bullpen that’s pretty well-stocked over there. So I’m real happy to be out — if not I would rather have been a free agent than gone back there, which may sound crazy but it gets to the point where you just want to do more. I would almost rather retire than do a role like I was doing for them. It was miserable.

Though Neshek is quite content with the Phillies and would like to stick around, he realizes that the team is certain to shop him as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. When asked if he expects to be traded, Neshek said, “I would say yes. It would be really cool to stay around here. I like it here. I feel very comfortable here.”

Stranger things have happened. The rebuilding Phillies were mostly inactive last summer, as new GM Matt Klentak chose to hold onto veteran starter Jeremy Hellickson and reliever David Hernandez. The only summer trade made last year involved catcher Carlos Ruiz going to the Dodgers near the end of August. This year, most of the Phillies’ veteran additions have failed to work out, as Clay Buchholz, Joaquin Benoit, and Howie Kendrick suffered injuries and Michael Saunders has floundered. Hellickson has also struggled, leaving Neshek as the Phillies’ lone attractive trade chip.

Bruce Maxwell is the first MLB player to take a knee during the National Anthem

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Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell did not stand for the National Anthem on Saturday night. He’s the first MLB player to do so and, like other professional athletes before him, used the moment to send a message — not just to shed light on the lack of racial equality in the United States, but to specifically protest President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire any of their players who elect to protest the anthem by sitting or kneeling.

“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, relayed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Friday. He continued:

Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.

While Maxwell didn’t make his own statement to the media, he took to Instagram earlier in the day to express his frustration against the recent opposition to the protests, criticizing the President for endorsing “division of man and rights.”

Despite Trump’s profanity-laced directive to NFL owners on Friday, however, it’s clear the Athletics don’t share his sentiments. “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a statement released after Maxwell’s demonstration. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Whatever the fallout, kudos to Maxwell for taking a stand. He may be the first to do so in this particular arena, but he likely won’t be the last.

Alex Wilson broke his leg on a 103-MPH comebacker

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This one is brutal. Tigers’ right-handed reliever Alex Wilson was diagnosed with a broken leg after taking a blistering 103.8-MPH line drive off of his right leg during Saturday’s game against the Twins. According to the Detroit News’ Chris McCosky, it’s a non-displaced fibular fracture, but will still warrant an extended recovery period and signal the end of Wilson’s season.

Wilson replaced Drew VerHagen to start the eighth inning and worked a full count against Joe Mauer. Mauer roped an 93.3-MPH fastball back up the middle, where it struck the pitcher on his right calf. While Mauer took first base, Wilson got to his feet and tried to toss a warm-up pitch, but was in too much pain to continue and had to be helped off the field.

Even in a season that isn’t going anywhere in particular, this isn’t how you want it to end. The Tigers have yet to announce a recovery timetable for the 30-year-old reliever, but he won’t return to the mound until 2018. He exited Saturday’s outing with a 4.35 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 6.3 SO/9 over 60 innings.

The Tigers currently trail the Twins 10-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning.