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Radke not ready for farewell in Game 3

Radke not ready for farewell in Game 3

OAKLAND -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire couldn't bear to watch Brad Radke pitch during most of the second half of the season.

Knowing Radke was pitching with severe pain in his shoulder, Gardenhire even stopped asking his pitcher how he was doing before starts because he couldn't stand to see the grimace on Radke's face.

So when Gardenhire had to take Radke out of his start on Aug. 25 at Chicago, when Radke's fastball was barely hitting 80 mph and the pain had become too much, the Twins manager thought it was going to be a sad ending to what had been a great career.

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"I thought, 'This is it, we are not going to see this man throw the baseball again,'" Gardenhire said.

But there is one thing the Twins have learned when it comes to Radke -- never count him out.

Instead of being done, Radke now prepares to make what may be his biggest start yet. Radke will get the ball in Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Oakland on Friday, with the Twins facing elimination as they face an 0-2 deficit in the best-of-five series.

"He's the guy you want on the mound in these big games," Gardenhire said. "I know he hasn't been out there a lot lately, but you look at our options and Brad is the guy."

"This is what it's all about, competing in situations like this," Radke added. "It doesn't matter if you're up 2-0 or down 0-2, you want to be the guy out there to keep the team going."

Radke has kept the Twins going all season, as his teammates witnessed the pitcher's incredible journey.

Dealing with a tear in his labrum for the past two seasons, Radke has thrown with some pain for most of that period. But it was in the middle of this season when the pain intensified to the point where Radke couldn't even use his right arm for normal activities between starts. He didn't throw bullpen sessions or even play catch.

"I didn't know what the heck was going on," Radke said. "I kept thinking, 'Please, God, get me through the season and through the playoffs.' I just wanted to finish up strong but the way I felt, I thought the whole rotator, labrum, everything was just blown up."

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After the start in Chicago, the problem was finally diagnosed as a stress fracture in his right shoulder socket. Radke rested for about two weeks to let the injury try to heal before making his improbable return in a start against the Royals last week.

Radke's return was something that amazed nearly all those in baseball and has earned him plenty of respect from his fellow teammates.

"We call him William Wallace, from 'Braveheart,'" Torii Hunter said with a smile. "The guy has all kinds of bumps and bruises and scars and breakage everywhere, and he's still on the mound dogging it out for this team."

A pitcher deemed the "heart" of the Twins club, it's by silent example that Radke had always led. And this season seemed no different, with the veteran wanting to grit it out.

Before the 2006 season started, Radke had announced that he likely would retire at the end of it. Having dealt with injuries and health problems for his entire family, due to his family home in Florida being infected with mold, Radke felt he needed to spend more time with his family.


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That's why the injuries seemed to be even more of a cruel punishment.

"It's not 100 percent right now, but it's pretty darn close," Radke said of retirement. "I will talk a little more about it when the season is over, but I don't think there is any doubt that I won't be back."

Even if this is the last go for Radke, on Friday he will get the opportunity to step up to a mound on which he has had postseason success before. Radke pitched a deciding Game 5 during the 2002 ALDS against the A's and helped the Twins advance to the ALCS.

"That was a lot of fun, just being the first playoff series of my career," Radke said. "It was crazy and just so exciting. I'm sure I'll be out there thinking about that [Friday]."

If Friday ends up being the last go-around for Radke, it's an ending that has had plenty of excitement. From starting in front of the home crowd last Thursday to seeing his team battle its way back to earning the division title on Sunday, Radke feels things have worked out better than he could have ever imagined earlier this year.

"Everything that went on last week was amazing," Radke said. "It's been quite an emotional roller coaster for me. I'm kind of glad that tomorrow is going to be a day game. I won't have too much time to think about it possibly being my last start. I'm just going to go out and take it pitch by pitch and hope we can pull out a win."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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