Phillies reliever Pat Neshek makes it clear: He was willing to pitch Monday night

Phillies reliever Pat Neshek makes it clear: He was willing to pitch Monday night

Updated: 8:15 p.m.

CHICAGO — Phillies reliever Pat Neshek on Tuesday addressed a misconception that he was not available to pitch in the eighth inning of Monday night’s game against the Cubs.

In fact, Neshek made it clear: He was available to pitch. By the time he was ready to come into the game, however, the call came from the dugout that he would not be brought into the game.

The bullpens at Wrigley Field are under the bleachers and not visible to fans. However, there are television cameras in the bullpen and those cameras caught Neshek shaking his head “No,” as he warmed up. It was easy to infer from the shot that Neshek was saying he was not available to pitch. Not the case, he said, adding that the camera caught him making just his second toss from the mound and he was merely telling pitching coach Jim Gott that he was not ready yet.

“It looked really bad on TV and people were like ‘Neshek isn’t ready,’ " the pitcher said. "If (critics) are going to characterize me as ‘I’m not coming into the game,’ then know that was my first pitch. No one saw when the phone call (to initially get up) was made.

“(Manager Gabe Kapler) got me up on a 1-0 pitch on (Jason) Heyward. That’s when I got the call. I got on the mound and threw two pitches and then he called down. That’s what they showed on TV. He said, ‘Is he ready?’ And I said ‘No. I’m not ready yet. I’ve thrown two pitches.’”

Neshek said the dugout wanted to know if he was ready for Albert Almora Jr., who followed Heyward. Seranthony Dominguez, who walked the first two batters of the inning, stayed on and Almora bunted. That brought up Daniel Descalso, who tripled home two runs.

Neshek said he was “good to go” for Descalso, but Kapler decided to stick with Dominguez. After the game, Kapler said he targeted Neshek for Addison Russell. He ended up sticking with Dominguez on Russell. Dominguez ended up getting out of the inning, but the lead was gone. The Phillies eventually tied the game in the ninth and won it the 10th on a homer by J.T. Realmuto.

After the game, Kapler indicated that he was trying to be careful with Neshek because the pitcher said he “was a little sore” before the game. On Tuesday, Neshek said the soreness was normal, fatigue-related soreness and not an injury.

Neshek is 38 and a veteran of Tommy John surgery. He missed time last season with a shoulder injury. His workload needs to be monitored, but he emphasized he was ready to go Monday night, even after pitching on Friday and Sunday.

On Tuesday, Kapler said Neshek did not shut himself down in the bullpen. The manager added that he would try to avoid using Neshek on Tuesday night, but would be willing to do so if the situation dictated.

“We’ll look to be respectful of recent workloads,” Kapler said. “(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.”

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The OG Phillie Phanatic wants Major League Baseball to lighten up

The OG Phillie Phanatic wants Major League Baseball to lighten up

Dave Raymond, the OG Phillie Phanatic, was alarmed when he read the news earlier this week.

No Mascots!

Has Major League Baseball lost its mind?

Or worse, its sense of humor?

Don’t misunderstand, Raymond, the man who breathed life into that big ball of green fur from the time it debuted in 1978 until 1993, is all for ridding the world of this nasty coronavirus beast. He’s all for social distancing, frequent handwashing and everything else that goes with protecting folks from getting sick. He knows how serious this thing is.

And that’s why he’s hoping that MLB won’t follow through on its plan to ban mascots from games when and if the sport comes back with a proposed 82-game schedule in July.

“I understand that only essential personnel can physically be at the games,” Raymond said Friday. “But I would argue that in these serious times mascots are more essential than ever.”

After shedding the Phanatic’s fur and handing the keys to the ATV to the equally brilliant Tom Burgoyne 26 years ago, Raymond dedicated his professional life to the concept of fun. It’s serious business. Raymond has owned and operated companies that help professional teams and college sports programs develop mascots/brands. He has trained mascots and helped found a mascot Hall of Fame. His current focus is motivational speaking. Everything is centered around the Power of Fun — which just so happens to be the title of his book — and how it can make a difference in people’s lives.

In these trying times when lives have been lost, when people have gotten sick and when the world has wrapped a mask around its face and gone into quarantine, Raymond is preaching louder than ever about the importance of a little fun and the respite it can offer in difficult times.

“It’s a scientific fact that laughing helps a person emotionally and physically,” he said.

That’s why he believes mascots need to have their place in baseball’s return.

“Mascots are a reflection of the fans’ heart and soul and part of the reason fans get emotionally connected to their teams,” he said. “During this time, we need the connection they provide more than ever. I understand that fans can’t be in the stadiums, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still engage them through mascots and character brands. Baseball needs to be creative and carve out space for entertainment.”

Raymond proposes that mascots be featured on television broadcasts when the game returns. It would be kind of funny to see a camera pan over to the Phanatic sitting all alone in section 305. Maybe even have Bobby Vinton’s Mr. Lonely play in the background.

If the Phanatic absolutely, positively cannot be in the ballpark, then he could be featured through technology and social media. Raymond proposed live streaming the Phanatic, wherever he might be, watching the game. Run it across social media platforms and have fans follow along. Raymond also proposed prerecording videos that could feature fans playing catch with the final throw landing in the Phanatic’s glove as he stands on the field. Another idea: Replace the Phanatic’s middle-of-the-fifth-inning dance skit with a live Zoom call on Phanavision and let fans log in. He’d like to see this stuff in every major league city.

“I understand it’s safety first, but there’s still room to lighten things up a little,” Raymond said.

Raymond is sharing this message with mascots who have been sidelined all over the country, from the major leagues to the minor leagues to the colleges. He has personally tutored many of them. They are his friends. Some have been furloughed from their jobs.

“It’s really devastating,” he said.

On Tuesday, Raymond will host a Zoom webinar for mascots and officials from teams, leagues and colleges that he has worked with over the years. It’s titled What The Heck Should My Mascot Do Now?

For Dave Raymond, the answer is simple:

Follow the rules, but by all means, be creative, embrace technology and mascot on.

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