Some thoughts on Hector Neris this afternoon:
Maybe it’s because I’m writing this on the beach, and thus don’t feel the typical bitterness caused by the underwhelming reality of my everyday life, but as I think about how three of Hector Neris’ 24 pitches in the ninth inning of last night’s shit show of a 17-7 loss were obliterated for a combined 1,276 feet worth of home runs, I gotta say—I feel sorry for the guy.
Usually, a performance like the one Neris delivered last night would prompt a profanity-laced reaction on my end, but this was different. There he stood, an already beaten man just getting absolutely pounded into submission, and I began to think about the human element to what was playing out.
Neris started the season as the Phillies closer, blew some games that led to gut-wrenching losses, became almost unanimously disliked and distrusted by Phillies fans, and was ultimately demoted to Triple-A with the hope that he would clear his head and find some consistency. While such a descent isn’t unprecedented, it still has to be a difficult one for an athlete to deal with. Making matters worse, the right shoulder impingement of Edubray Ramos regrettably expedited the return of Neris far too soon. A pair of clean innings that featured four strikeouts earlier in the week against a lethal Yankees lineup created a false hope that he perhaps turned a corner, but we should have seen last night coming. I mean, what type of meaningful changes and substantive progress can a pitcher make during a stint in the minors that lasts less than a week?
The reality here is that Neris right now lacks the consistent command necessary to hang at the Major League level. Continue to trot him out there, and continue to watch him get his ass kicked. It’s a bad spot for both him and the team.
Neris has been particularly awful in June. In 10 games this month, opponents have hit .349 with a 1.294 OPS against him. He’s allowed SEVEN home runs in 9.2 IP, and his 1.655 WHIP is ugly . His 6.52 HR/9 and 9.71 FIP are league worsts.
He is most certainly on the brink of (or already in) DFA territory. It’s hard to construct an argument for keeping him around at this point, but what makes his case so frustrating is that his talent is still there. In between creating frequent souvenirs for the patrons beyond the outfield fences are pitches that make opposing hitters look foolish. Even during his historically dreadful month, Neris has managed to strike out 15 hitters (14 K/9) while only allowing one walk. His 94.8 mph four-seam fastball velocity is exactly the same as it was the two previous years when he wasn’t throwing in-game batting practice. There’s reason to think that he can be fixed, but even with the Phillies bullpen being a dumpster fire, it looks increasingly unlikely that fix is going to happen here. If it doesn’t, that’s kind of a shame.