Catching Up With Lew Ford and Pat Neshek

The Twins have many things going for them this year - veteran presence, dangerous bats off the bench, etc. - but they are a little short on goofiness. Right now, apart from Carl Pavano's mustache, there's almost nothing flaky about the team, which is kind of sad.

Below, a look back at perhaps the flakiest Twin of all time, Lew Ford - and an update on perhaps the current champion in the system, Pat Neshek.

Who Didn't Love Lew?

Below, a recap of the man and the myth:

  1. One year, a contact-lens company introduced red lenses, which would supposedly help the wearer see the ball better. One day, Ron Gardenhire saw Ford standing in line in the dugout. When asked why, Ford said, "I'm waiting in line to try these contacts." Gardy, unsure of himself, pointed out, "Uh, Lew - you don't wear glasses." Ford looked pensive for a second, and then said, "Oh, yeah, right," and sprinted out onto the field.
  2. Lew got 1,400 on his SATs, including 750 on the math section. He studied electrical engineering and computer science on his collegiate journey. He went to Texas A&M on a scholarship - an academic scholarship - then left when he didn't make the baseball team as a walk-on. Four colleges later, he got drafted by the Red Sox.
  3. Gardy once happened to dine in the same restaurant as Lew, who was eating with a few guys Gardy didn't know. The manager went over to introduce himself, and asked who the other guys were. Said Lew, "Oh, these are some guys I met playing World of Warcraft on the internet."
  4. He once missed a chance at pinch-running in Anaheim because, when Matthew LeCroy came to get him from the clubhouse, Lew put his shoes on and ran the wrong way out of the clubhouse.
  5. Upon being told he was going to Portland, the Twins' old AAA affiliate in Oregon, he said, "Why am I going to Portland? That's in Maine."
  6. Whatever the stories, he insists he did not burn himself while attempting to iron a shirt while wearing it. He did, however, show up with an iron-shaped burn mark on one of his shirts, and you have to admit that the mythical while-wearing-it story does sound like Lew.
  7. One year at spring training, Lew brought both his desktop and laptop computers with him - "because the desktop is more powerful and has a 19-inch flatscreen monitor," he said. But when the Twins started the season on the road, he couldn't figure out what to do with the computer, and had to bring it with him. "I could only bring like one change of clothes because I brought my computer," he said. "But I don't take the big one on every trip. You have to make sure to put that in there."

Despite all of the goofiness, it's worth remembering that Lew was good enough in 2004 (.299/.381/.446, 15 homers) to earn a vote in the MVP race, and that from 2003-2007 he played in nearly 500 games for the Twins, batting .272 and playing all three outfield spots. Lew was last seen in the Mexican League, playing for Oaxaca this year and batting .314 with a .961 OPS in 39 games - but he was released on May 10, and we can find no evidence he has moved on to other pastures. If he's done, then baseball has lost something.

Come back soon, Pat

Everybody's favorite collector-nerd reliever has, thanks to injury, kind of disappeared. He came up in July 2006, and for the next year and a half, was one of the best setup guys in all of baseball. 2.68 ERA. 127 strikeouts in just over 107 innings. Minnesota native. Funky delivery. Goofy blog. Huge chin. "Sideshow Pat" was the most lovable Twin since Lew.

Then, of course, came act two of the Neshek story: the UCL tear in early 2008, which the team and pitcher tried to cure with rest and rehab. This didn't work, Neshek eventually tore the ligament further, and had to miss all of 2009 after having Tommy John surgery in 2008.

Neshek was back this spring - and unfortunately, ran into injury problems again. Neshek hurt a finger on his pitching hand, got a cortisone shot in the finger, and was told to rest. He came back, still in pain, and pitched - but not as well, and the team was prepared to send him down to Triple-A. Neshek ignited a semi-confusing firestorm by telling the team that he needed to go on the DL, not down to Rochester - and then fanned the flames after going on the DL by announcing via Twitter and Facebook that he had been misdiagnosed.

Since then, Pat's been down in Rochester, rehabbing and trying to get back to the majors. His blog is still going, but he understandably sounds a little frustrated. Early in July, he reported on his own velocity, saying,

Right now according to the stadium gun my fastball has been up to 88-89, who knows if this is low or high but it's the highest I have seen on the thing since I've been here. In my prime I was around 90-92 for most pitches.

Just six days earlier, though, it was clear that he thought this shouldn't be holding him back:

The funny thing is that I throw my slider about 50% of the time to righties and always have even in 06 & 07. I rely more on deception than blowing (velo) balls past guys, I'm a sidearmer for crying out loud...Overall I feel great and have good stuff on the mound.

Over his last ten games, Neshek has allowed just one run in nine innings - but he's struck out only four batters in that span while giving up ten baserunners. This said, if the Twins bullpen struggles down the stretch, you can bet - or at least hope - that Neshek will get his chance to come back.

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