LOS ANGELES — Gabe Kapler studies opposing lineups before each game, searching for the optimal matchups for his relief pitchers. Each time, Kapler imagines where he would use Pat Neshek and what situation would best suit the righthander, who has yet to throw a pitch this season.
Tuesday afternoon offered some promise that Kapler could soon put that research to test, as Neshek said he felt fine after throwing off a bullpen mound for the first time since a forearm injury flared up earlier this month.
"He just looks good against everybody," Kapler said. "That's really exciting. He can get righties out. He can get lefties out. It's just a very uncomfortable at-bat for a hitter and hard for the opposition to match up against."
Neshek will throw at least one more bullpen session before starting a rehab assignment. The Phillies could move him quickly and, if all goes well, Neshek could return sometime in June. The Phillies could have used him on Monday when they collapsed in the eighth inning of a 5-4 loss to the Dodgers, a role that Neshek tackled with success last season before being traded to the Rockies.
"Last night, we were able to get the best of the matchups that we could get. Still, we weren't perfectly matched up and we never will be," Kapler said. "But a guy like Shack, it gives you a better chance. … Shack has the chance to be dominant against most in every lineup. And that's very encouraging. I can't wait to have him and take care of him and deploy him effectively to keep him healthy."
Righthander Jerad Eickhoff will have another evaluation on Wednesday in St. Louis with the thoracic outlet syndrome specialist he met with on Tuesday. The pitcher is trying to determine the cause of the numbness he felt in his fingertips during his last rehab start with triple-A Lehigh Valley. Kapler said Eickhoff's evaluation on Tuesday "went fairly well."