NEW YORK — The path to Pat Neshek's surprising run to the All-Star Game began eight months ago when he learned he was headed to the Phillies, who simply acquired him from Houston by sending cash. The trade — termed "a salary dump" by Neshek — provided all the motivation the reliever needed.
"You never know if you get the opportunity what you can do with it," said Neshek, who will represent the Phillies in the All-Star Game on July 11 in Miami.
The path continued in the World Baseball Classic as Neshek pitched pivotal innings to help Team USA capture the gold medal. The three-week tournament — which ended just before the season began — turned that motivation into confidence. The momentum kept rolling. Neshek was an easy all-star selection after allowing runs in just two of his 35 outings this season. The righthander allowed three runs Saturday to snap an 18-inning scoreless streak. His 1.39 ERA is the sixth-lowest among all National League relievers with more than 10 appearances.
"You don't think of yourself as one of the best players, or at least I don't look at myself that way," said Neshek, 36. "But if you get the opportunity, you never know if you're on that stage. So I took that into the season. I said, 'Hey, I got some big guys out in the World Baseball Classic. I've done it before. I'm going to go at this hard again.' You never know what's going to happen."
The All-Star Game will almost certainly be one of the final acts of Neshek's brief Phillies career. The team plans to flip the 10-year veteran to a contender before the July 31 trade deadline. There's even a chance a trade could happen sooner, which would make the All-Star Game a little awkward.
Neshek was an all-star in 2014 with St. Louis when the Cubs traded Jeff Samardzija to Oakland after the pitcher was already named to the National League team. Samardzija was ruled ineligible to play and wore a generic hat with a National League jersey during pregame introductions.
"He didn't know where to go — in the National League photo or American League photo," Neshek said. "He came over with us for the Home Run Derby and then we went with the other team for the game. It was kind of funny. I hope it doesn't happen that early, but who knows?"
The trip to Miami will also give Neshek a chance to add to his vast autograph collection. He cleaned up in 2014, acquiring autographs from each player on a limited-edition set of Topps cards. And he has already has his sights set for this year.
"There's one guy, but I don't want to mention him. We're going to have to have a little talk," Neshek said before taking a long pause. "Zack Greinke. He's tough. Hopefully we can talk."
The Arizona righthander is a notoriously stingy about signing autographs, even for a fellow all-star. But Neshek has a plan.
"I'll have my kid run over and get him," Neshek said "It's going to be cool. My kid is a lot older now. He wasn't even one back then. He's three and a half now. He'll be able to watch guys hit home runs and it will be really neat."