Less than a week before pitchers and catchers report to spring training for the 2014 season, the Cardinals have signed veteran relief pitcher Pat Neshek to a minor league deal. Neshek, 33, is a right-hander with a sidearm delivery that is closer to submarine than traditional overhand. The Cardinals were due to add a veteran reliever after the departures of Edward Mujica and John Axford, and Neshek could fill that void and develop into a nice bullpen piece this year.
Neshek had great success at the start of his major league career with the Minnesota Twins from 2006-2008. His unique arm action makes him an extremely difficult pitcher for right-handed batters to face. It also subjected him to injury as he missed the entire 2009 season after needing Tommy John surgery. Neshek struggled in the two years following his surgery, but he has made somewhat of a comeback over the last two years as an effective reliever for the Oakland Athletics. If he can continue to regain his pre-surgery form with the Redbirds, then his signing prove to be a useful one.
Right-handed batters have hit merely .181 against Neshek over the course of his career. He can provide the Cards with a matchup righty, similar to the way Randy Choate is used against lefties, focusing on one or two batters and then calling it a day’s work. This is a valuable piece to have because it then allows Seth Maness to be used in ground ball situations, which is his strength, rather than having to waste him on specific right-handed batters.
Overall this is a solid signing for the Cardinals especially considering it is a minor league deal but Neshek offers great major league upside. Neshek at his best can provide the Cardinals with a veteran bullpen presence and add an effective wrinkle to the already ample bullpen.