OAK@SF: Neshek fans Pill to escape a bases-loaded jam

MINNEAPOLIS -- A's reliever Pat Neshek returned to his hometown this week, the perilous nature of the career journeyman middle reliever once again fresh in his mind.

The A's designated Neshek for assignment Aug. 26, sent him to Triple-A after he cleared waivers, and recalled him Sept. 3 after Major League rosters were expanded. He saw his first action since his return in Oakland's 18-3 rout of the Twins on Wednesday, tossing a scoreless eighth inning.

An important cog in the A's bullpen during last year's division title run, Neshek faces an uncertain future in Oakland, a fate he's stared down before with three other franchises.

But the 33-year-old right-hander understands it's all part of the business, and he said he appreciates the time he's spent in Oakland.

"It's been fun. This team, the young guys and winning ... it's the funnest team I've ever played on," Neshek said. "It's been a blast."

He compared the makeup of the A's to the Twins teams of the last decade that won six American League Central titles in nine seasons. Neshek was part of three of those teams, including the 2006 Twins, who lost to the A's in the AL Division Series in his rookie season.

"We've got a good mix of older guys that either got hurt and are having success now, and a lot of young guys who are going to be leaders and are going to make a lot of money in this game," Neshek said. "It reminds me a lot of the younger Twins teams I was on when I was coming up. We had a few veterans and a strong young presence, and they would make a trade to get other guys … it really reminds me a lot of how they built that team over there a few years ago."

Neshek was a valuable setup man for the Twins in 2006-07 before injuries cost him most of the next two seasons. He returned to pitch in 10 games in 2010, but was released before the next season. Since then, he's bounced around from San Diego to Baltimore to Oakland, and if he's not back with the A's next season, he hopes to catch on with another organization.

He's got the numbers -- a 2-1 record with a 3.58 ERA, which was at 2.34 in early August before he gave up six earned runs over three innings in his next three appearances. But he knows his job prospects won't be determined solely by his statistics.

"You could have a good year and have a couple bad outings and you never know if you'll get that shot," he said. "There's a guy we played with last year, Jim Miller -- he had a great year in Triple-A, but he's getting a little older and [the Yankees] just got rid of him today. It's like, you know you can pitch, but you have to get the opportunity, and that's the hard part about this game. "

The Twins have undergone a thorough overhaul of their roster since Neshek last played here in 2010, but there's at least one familiar face he can count on seeing when he returns to Target Field -- his younger brother, Paul, who's a Twins ball boy. Earlier this season the younger Neshek, who played in the Little League World Series for nearby Brooklyn Park, made the highlight reels with a leaping catch down the third-base line, saving front-row spectators from a wicked line drive.

"He'd just gotten the job about a month before he made that catch," Neshek said. "I didn't even know he was working here. He was trying to get back on the grounds crew, and that was the only job they had available so he took it. He takes his job pretty seriously. I see him in the highlights every once in a while just missing a ball or making a decent catch -- it's pretty awesome to see. He loves being around the game."

So does his older brother, who's hoping for an opportunity to add another step to his Major League journey next season.

Worth noting

• Manager Bob Melvin gave Alberto Callaspo Wednesday night off to use Seth Smith at designated hitter. The A's skipper said it was a decision based mainly on matchups -- Smith was 6-for-13 with a home run in his career against Twins starter Mike Pelfrey, while Callaspo was 0-for-6. Melvin also likes having the switch-hitting Callaspo available for pinch-hitting duties.

• After taking batting practice with the team Tuesday for the first time since returning from the disabled list, right fielder Josh Reddick is medically cleared to play. But Melvin said he might have a hard time breaking into the lineup after an extended absence and no Minor League rehab stint.

"If that opportunity presents itself, whether it's something in-game or we feel like there's a really good matchup for him to go out there and start, it'll be based on how he does, which is just how it is in baseball," Melvin said. "This time of year with [18] games left, it's tough to just say, 'All right, work your way back into it.' And he understands that."

• With Twins outfielder Josh Willingham 15-for-37 with seven home runs against the A's since the start of the 2012 season, Melvin said it was time to adjust their approach against the former Oakland slugger. But Melvin knows that even a proper adjustment won't make up for a pitcher missing his spot.

"Over the course of the last couple of years, every mistake we've made, he's hit," Melvin said. "And that was the case again [Tuesday] night. We just didn't make good pitches to him."