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Neshek likely to miss rest of season

Neshek likely to miss rest of season

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins right-hander Pat Neshek will likely miss the rest of the 2008 season after an MRI exam on Friday revealed an acute partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

As a result of the injury, Neshek will not be allowed to do any throwing for a minimum of three months, meaning that it would be very close to the end of the season by the time he's even close to pitching again.

"We're going to prepare for Opening Day next year," Neshek said.

But while it seemed to be the worst kind of news, Neshek didn't look at it that way. The ulnar collateral ligament is the same one that is replaced in Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. However, Neshek said the doctors believed that his injury could be treated with rest and rehabilitation and not surgery.

"Obviously it's really bad," Neshek said. "But it's good I can come back and rehab this instead of having to go through surgery and sit out for a good year."

Neshek suffered the injury in the eighth inning of Thursday's game against the White Sox in Chicago. The pitcher said he felt something in the elbow "tweak and roll over" when he threw a slider to Joe Crede, the third batter he faced in the inning. Neshek exited the game immediately following that pitch and was originally diagnosed with a right elbow strain.

After Thursday's game, the Twins' setup man said that his elbow was a little sore. But that soreness had increased by Friday morning.

"It's really sore, more so than I've ever had it down there," Neshek said on Friday afternoon before the MRI results were known.

The Twins placed Neshek on the 15-day disabled list Friday, clearing room for left-handed pitcher Glen Perkins to be activated to the 25-man roster. Perkins had already been scheduled to be called up in time for his start Saturday against the Red Sox, but the exact corresponding move had not been determined.

Neshek has been given the majority of the eighth-inning spots so far this season for the Twins. He earned the role as the team's primary setup man last season and went 7-2 with a 2.94 ERA, a .183 batting average against and 74 strikeouts over 70 1/3 innings. So far this season, Neshek had posted a 4.73 ERA over his 13 1/3 innings.

And being without him for possibly the rest of the season is something that manager Ron Gardenhire admitted will not be easy.

"Our goal is to make sure we get him back healthy down the road," Gardenhire said. "It's something that happens in this game, but it's very sad. He's one of our good ones out there. We've got plenty of them, but you sure hate to lose them."

With Neshek out of the picture, Gardenhire said that he has a few other options he can turn to for the eighth inning. He mentioned right-handers Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain and Juan Rincon and left-hander Dennys Reyes as possibilities for the spot.

Initially this season, the Twins had shied away from using Crain in back-to-back games, but Gardenhire said that's no longer the case. Doctors have cleared Crain, who had surgery on his right shoulder last May and missed the rest of the '07 season, to pitch on consecutive days.

"We can use him just about any way we want to now," Gardenhire said. "Obviously we'll still be careful with him, but Jesse is ready to go back-to-back days."

Using closer Joe Nathan for a few extra outs in the eighth is also a possibility that Gardenhire said he would consider -- at least when the team is at home.

"If the need is there and we have to get some big outs and make some changes -- left, right, left -- or something like that, then sure we can do those things," Gardenhire said.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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