JUPITER, Fla. -- With proximity and championship potential serving as distinguishing factors in his decision, Pat Neshek said he accepted the Cardinals' recent Minor League offer over others from teams within the National League Central.
"This just feels right," Neshek said, speaking before he participated as a non-roster invitee in the Cardinals' first official spring workout. Exactly one week earlier, he came off the free-agent market.
The fit was right for the Cardinals, too, even though the organization was not actively seeking bullpen additions this winter. However, when general manager John Mozeliak saw Neshek still on the market in January, he decided to pursue the 33-year-old right-hander.
"It's nice to know that you have someone with Major League experience who has played on competitive clubs," Mozeliak said. "For us, we were surprised he was still out there."
Neshek, who spent the last two seasons with Oakland, welcomed the opportunity to join another perennial contender. He liked that the Cardinals envisioned utilizing him as a right-handed specialist and was undeterred by the number of other young relievers already on the roster.
"If I have to go down to Memphis, that's fine," Neshek said. "There would be no problems from me. From my past experiences, if you do well, you're going to get an opportunity. It might not be right away. It's real similar situation to Oakland as I look around. But I love it. I love being around guys who are hungry to win and just have fun."
There was also convenience to consider. After three years of spending his springs in Arizona and his summers in California, Neshek welcomed the opportunity to play closer to home. He is making a 90-minute, one-way commute from his home along Florida's east coast so that he can remain home with his wife.
"When I was in Oakland last year, it felt like I was in Japan," said Neshek. "I could never come back to Florida at all. This makes it a lot easier. Memphis is close, and St. Louis is pretty close compared to other teams."
Neshek's chances at winning a bullpen job will depend not only on his performance this spring, but also on what happens around him. The Cardinals could backfill their bullpen with the pitchers who do not break camp in the rotation. Jason Motte's status as he returns from elbow surgery is also fluid.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.