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10/06/06 11:01 PM ET

Radke faces tough retirement decision

Veteran may have made his final appearance in Game 3

OAKLAND -- When all the Twins had left the dugout after their 8-3 loss to the A's on Friday, one player remained alone on the bench with his eyes focused straight ahead.

Brad Radke sat in silence as he tried to take in everything -- the look of the mound, the feeling of sitting on the bench -- knowing that this might be the last time in his 12-year career that he could do such a thing.

It was a much different scene when Radke returned to the clubhouse, as a horde of cameras and reporters were waiting to talk to the pitcher to see if this indeed was the end of the line for the pitcher.

Radke stood with his eyes glistening from tears and listened to the question he knew was coming. And when the retirement question was posed, he took a deep breath and announced that he wasn't ready to call it a career just yet.

"I'm going to take a few days," Radke said. "I'll give everybody a decision as quick as I can, but this is overwhelming right now. I'll sit back and talk to the wife and the kids first."

Pitching through pain all year long, it was Radke that helped carry the club on his deteriorating shoulder and make this postseason a real possibility.

But when it came time to carry Radke on Friday, the club wasn't able to complete its mission and instead came to the realization after the loss that this could be it for Radke's career.

"When he came out, everyone realized that this might be the last one," Joe Nathan said. "There definitely were some emotions that came out in people. With Brad, he's been such a great person and such a great teacher to so many people, so many players and coaches and everybody. A lot of people are going to miss him and hope that he changes his mind and doesn't want to retire -- in particular, me, because I'm the oldest pitcher if he leaves."

The light-hearted humor was the club's way of trying to accept the fact that it may lose the man who has been labeled the "heart" of this Twins club.

The knowledge that this might be the end has been two years in the making. When Radke signed his last contract with the club, he turned down a three-year deal because he felt that this would be the time to bow out of the game he loved and rejoin his family.

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Before this season, Radke confirmed once again that this likely would be his last season, but he had no idea the obstacles that would await him.

After throwing all year with pain, it intensified to the point where it forced him out of a start on Aug. 25 at Detroit, making it appear that his career would come to an end even quicker than anticipated. The fact that Radke was able to come back from a stress fracture in his shoulder socket to pitch so well in his last two starts has made the decision a little more difficult.

"I felt pretty good the last couple weeks, and I never thought I would feel this way about my shoulder," Radke said. "But it's a difficult decision. I feel like I probably could go back out next year."

One minute it seemed the Radke was giving his teammates hope for a return, but the next minute, his decision seemed to have already been made.

"I think I'm just making excuses," Radke said. "I think I know what my decision is going to be.

Watching Radke sit on the end of the bench was hard for all the Twins players, who knew this could be the last time they would be able to have the ultimate teammate battling for them.

"Guys went over and gave him hugs, and I personally went over and thanked him for everything," shortstop Jason Bartlett said. "Brad is a great guy. You'll never find another veteran like him. I was happy I could be a part of his team and play with him."

A long line of players and coaches stopped by Radke's locker before the clubhouse emptied. The pitcher stood and looked around for a bit as he took off the uniform that he has worn for the past 12 years.

Radke knows that a tough decision awaits him, and he's going to take his time before making it.

"It's hard," Radke said as his lip trembled a bit. "When you have to decide whether to walk away from something you've been doing your whole life, it's not easy. Right now it's just hard for me to fathom that this might be the end."

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