Take Five - with Jeff Nelson

Signed as a minor league free agent on January 20, 2006, it appears to me that he ...

Looking down to the bullpen in the right hand corner of Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter Florida and you take comfort when you see the 6'8" right handed reliever warming up.

Signed by the Cardinals as a minor league free agent on January 20, it appears to me that Nelson is a lock, to make the club when they pack and head north for the regular season.

For his career, Nelson has appeared in the postseason eight times, including winning four World Championships (all with the Yankees). He holds a record of a 2.66 ERA (16 er/54.1 IP) in 55 combined postseason games.

Perhaps his most impressive stat, is that in the World Series he holds a 1-0 record with a 1.69 ERA in 16 games played.

I caught up with Jeff Nelson in the clubhouse.

RM: "First Jeff, as a fan it gives me a lot of comfort looking down to the bullpen and seeing you there."

JN: "Thanks Ray, I hope so. I am here to show everyone I can still pitch."

RM: "I hate to ask you, but I'm going to ask you one of those how you feel questions. How do you feel being in camp with the St. Louis Cardinals?"

JN: "I have been very lucky in my career to play for the New York Yankees and now for the first time I'm getting the opportunity to play in the National League and I'm getting to play for the St. Louis Cardinals. To get to play for the two best franchises in baseball history is a great experience."

RM: "There is some questions about if you can still be effective out of the pen. It looks to me like you are in great shape this spring and watching you work out this morning, your pitches seem to be working."

JN: "I'm here to prove I can still pitch and I'm not coming in here taking anything for granted."

RM: "Jeff when you come into camp, do all your pitches come together at the same time or do you need to work on some more than others."

JN: "My slider is usually more effective early on and it takes a little longer to get the arm strength back for the fastball."

RM: "One thing about being on a Tony La Russa team is that he is going to put you in game situations that will provide you the best opportunity for success."

JN: "That is what I have heard."

RM: "Looking at your numbers from last year, you held right handed batters to a .197 batting average and here in St. Louis, you will most likely only face right handers and I can see you being very effective out of the bullpen here.

How different is your preparation for a spring training game different than a regular season game?"

JN: "There is not that much difference other than you pitch to your strength."

RM: "Do you have the pitcher - catcher meetings and go over scouting reports?"

JN: "No, you know some of the strengths and weaknesses of some of the batters you face because you faced them in the past, but there are a lot of players up here hacking at everything, that you have never played against before. So you just get your work in and go with your best stuff."

RM: "Ok, Jeff thanks a lot for your time, it's good to see you in a St. Louis uniform and I hope to see you a lot this season around the clubhouse."

JN: "Thanks."

Nelson has appeared in 1.2 innings this spring and has not allowed a hit, facing even a couple of left handers shutting them down. He has two strike outs in his first two appearances.

Last season, Nelson began his season on the Mariners' 25 man roster after going to spring training as a non-roster invitee. I'm expecting he'll make the 25 man roster again this year.

Nelson appeared in 49 games for the Mariners, posting a 1-3 record with a 3.93 ERA.

My take is Nelson makes the club and will be used as a righty specialist in key situations.

Nelson knows what it takes to win a World Championship and having him in the bullpen should pay post season dividends.

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