Philadelphia Phillies: Pat Neshek deserves all the blame

(Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
(Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia Phillies are better with Pat Neshek on the mound. Unfortunately, the veteran reliever seems more interested in finding ways to stay off it.

Through parts of three seasons and two separate stints with the Philadelphia Phillies, Pat Neshek has been one of the most consistent relievers in the game. Sporting an impressive 1.99 ERA in 81 1/3 innings pitched, the sidearm-dealing righty has stifled opponents with his herky-jerky motion and deceptive slider. In his 13-year career, Neshek has tallied 16 saves, nine of which have come as a member of the Phillies. Yet despite his late-inning dominance, none of it really matters if he can’t stay on the field.

Or, more accurately, chooses to stay off of it.

Pat Neshek is a valuable asset to the team, the same team that he repeatedly appears less interested in accommodating at the expense of his own perceived health.

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On Tuesday night as the Phillies were clinging to a 2-1 lead against the Chicago Cubs that they’d go on to blow and lose the game in the process, Pat Neshek was resting comfortably in the visitor’s bullpen at Wrigley Field. It was the same bullpen where he relaxed the night before after briefly warming up, while never entering the game.

Why in the crunch time of two games was Neshek not used? I guess it depends on who you ask.

During the television broadcast of Monday’s game, cameras picked up Neshek shaking his head “No” after throwing a few warm-up tosses indicating he couldn’t get loose to enter the game. Neshek, who alerted Phillies manager Gabe Kapler pregame of soreness in his arm, never entered the contest and would later defend himself saying he was ready to go, but just not at the moment when cameras picked up the unfortunate nod.


In his post-game presser, the Phillies skipper admitted that he was trying to be careful with the 38-year-old reliever due to the aforementioned arm soreness.

"“We’ll look to be respectful of recent workloads. (Neshek) has been up in the ‘pen a lot. We’ve gotten him up on multiple occasions. Sometimes those pitches can be as strenuous as game pitches and we’re always trying to figure out how to evaluate getting loose in the ‘pen versus actually throwing pitches in the game. They can’t be that far off. Those last couple of pitches that get you where you need to be can’t be much different than a game pitch so I think we have to kind of respect those.” (Courtesy: Jim Salisbury, NBC Sports Philadelphia)"

Again, I say, really?

Pardon me if I’m wrong, but I thought warm-ups served the purpose of preparing a person for an activity; not deterring one from it. To say that a professional reliever of 13 years is facing the same strenuous scenarios warming up in the ‘pen as he would in an actual game is ludicrous. Does Kapler really believe himself, or could he possibly be protecting one of his players? A selfish player, at that.

Pat Neshek is a heck of a pitcher, but unfortunately, he also has a proven history of putting his own needs way ahead of the team.

Back in 2017 during his first tenure with the team, Neshek allegedly told former manager Pete Mackanin that he was unavailable to pitch in a game, one in which the team would go on to blow a lead in the late stages where Neshek could have helped (similar to Tuesday’s 3-2 walk-off loss to the Cubs). Afterward, Neshek stated that he was available but that it was the Phillies who told him he’d be given the day off.


There would be another odd story-line the very next day as Neshek – the Phillies lone All-Star representative that year – informed Mackanin that he would “rather not” go back out to pitch the ninth inning of a game against the Cardinals in which he entered in the eighth, throwing just five pitches. According to Mackanin, “I asked him to go back out. He said he would rather not; he didn’t feel like he had it.”

This troublesome pattern of behavior from Neshek is concerning. While I won’t question the relevancy of injury or soreness, Neshek’s history of making himself unavailable for games is unacceptable for any professional athlete, let alone one participating as a member of a team competing for its first division title in eight years.

Imagine Bryce Harper exiting the game with a banged up knee after he got up limping from hitting the Citizens Bank Park wall last week while making a sliding catch. Imagine Jean Segura telling the skipper a day after getting clunked in the head by a 90-mph fastball that he would really prefer to watch the next game from the comfort of the dugout.

You’d have to imagine because both players were right back in there as soon as they could (in Harper’s case, he never left). That’s the team-first mentality winning players exude.

And Pat Neshek is neither.

There’s no denying Kapler has experienced his fair share of troubles managing the bullpen in his two years as Phillies skipper, but this week has not been one. Despite Neshek throwing his manager under the bus when asked why he didn’t pitch Monday (see the quote here), Kapler used his bullpen pieces to the best of his ability. When one of those pieces refuses to be available – or passive-aggressively chooses not be ready – there’s only so much the Phillies manager can do.

I don’t know the full story of what happened this week – only Kapler and Neshek do – but the bottom line is the Phillies needed Neshek for two games, and he pitched in neither. Thankfully the team rallied in Monday’s affair for the win before inevitably blowing Tuesday’s contest.

Whether my assumption is right or not, baseball is a team sport, and I just don’t believe Neshek is a team guy. There have been conflicting messages surrounding his availability now through two Philadelphia Phillies’ coaching regimes, and the lone common denominator between the two is he.

Next. Philadelphia Phillies Philes Vol 1.8: At the quarter mark. dark

Often where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and all flames lead back to Pat Neshek. Hopefully, he doesn’t get burned; he might have to miss a game or two.