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Saturday, May 10, 2008
Twins lose setup man for season because of elbow ligament tear

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Pat Neshek was bracing for bad news about his right elbow, and that's what he got.

The Minnesota Twins placed their right-handed setup man on the 15-day disabled list Friday, after an MRI exam revealed an acute partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in the sidearmer's elbow.

Pat Neshek

Neshek

Neshek will not be allowed to throw for a minimum of three months, which means the injury has effectively ended his season. But he said he won't need surgery.

The ulnar collateral ligament is the same ligament that pitchers have repaired when they undergo Tommy John replacement surgery.

"Obviously it's really bad, but it's good I can come back and rehab this and not have to go through surgery and sit out for a good year," Neshek said after Friday's game, his arm fully wrapped.

"So we're going to prepare for Opening Day next year. It just needs a little bit of time to heal and a little bit of rehab to build it back up."

Manager Ron Gardenhire called the situation "very sad."

"Whether he pitches again this year, for sure our goal is to get him back healthy," Gardenhire said.

For now, Neshek, 27, will sit and rest as Minnesota's bullpen tries to pick up the slack. Right-handers Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier probably will share the standard eighth-inning role in front of closer Joe Nathan.

In 15 appearances, Neshek is 0-1 with a 4.73 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings. To take his roster spot, the Twins recalled left-hander Glen Perkins from Triple-A Rochester. Perkins has been slated to start Saturday's game against Boston.

Neshek went 7-2 with a 2.94 ERA, a .183 batting average against and 74 strikeouts while throwing 70 1/3 innings last season, his first as the primary setup man.

He had weakness in his shoulder last September, but he's never had an injured elbow before.

He got hurt throwing a slider in the eighth Thursday afternoon at Chicago, when he felt something "tweak" in the joint.

"It was weird. I felt really good on the mound," Neshek said before Minnesota's 7-6 victory over Boston on Friday. "The pitch just kind of gave out. It went kind of in the dirt, and I felt something tweak on me in my elbow. It didn't really hurt. That's what the weird thing was. I just felt like a weird movement, and it felt out of place a little bit."

Some soreness came after the game, and Neshek said there was a little more Friday morning. Though his sidearm delivery appears violent, he said his slider doesn't put any more stress on his elbow.

Neshek picked up the sidearm style in college after getting hit in the forearm by a pitch in his last high school game. He was asked, jokingly, if he'd go back to overhand now after getting hurt again.

"Left-handed," Neshek deadpanned.