When we last saw Hector Neris on June 29, he stood a battered and broken pitcher atop the mound of Citizens Bank Park after allowing Washington Nationals hitters to belt three mammoth home runs in what was a disastrous performance. His ERA climbed to 6.90 and the Phillies had finally seen enough.
Since that night, Neris disappeared to Lehigh Valley for a little over six weeks and has been lights out. In 19 games with the Iron Pigs, Neris pitched to a 1.45 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .138 batting average. He’s posted a 0.86 WHIP and has 31 strikeouts over 18.2 innings pitched. Now, the Phillies are hoping with a renewed confidence that Neris can recapture the form that made him a quality late-inning option not so long ago:
#Phillies have recalled RHP Héctor Neris from Lehigh Valley (AAA).
To make room on the 25-man roster, INF J.P. Crawford was optioned to Lehigh Valley yesterday. pic.twitter.com/VxvEoNjK38
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) August 14, 2018
Recalling Neris makes total sense. In the short-term, having an extra arm available against a potent Red Sox offense that comes into tonight averaging 7.91 runs per game in August can’t hurt. He also has long-term upside. Neris has proven over an extended stretch at Triple-A that the command which betrayed him earlier this season has returned. He still possesses an elite ability to miss bats and could provide a big boost down the stretch to what has been an inconsistent bullpen, so he’s most certainly worth a look.
What doesn’t make sense is Scott Kingery’s continued existence on the 25-man roster.
I don’t mean to sound like an asshole here – it’s nothing personal. I still believe Kingery is going to be a fine player for the Phillies in the long run, but there is absolutely no evidence to suggest or reason to believe that he can turn around his struggles this season. He’s in the midst of a miserable 0 for 21 stretch that includes eight strikeouts. He doesn’t have a hit since the Phillies acquired Asdrubal Cabrera, and his .586 OPS is the worst among any qualified National League hitter. Meanwhile, J.P. Crawford has struggled in limited playing time, but his OPS is 59 points higher than Kingery’s and his on-base percentage is 46 points higher.
So what gives? I don’t know if they are concerned about the optics of demoting Kingery after signing him to a six-year deal worth a guaranteed $24 million in March, or if they’re afraid of hurting his psyche, but it’s certainly a bizarre move. Crawford does hit from the left-side, and with Andrew Knapp and Justin Bour both on the bench, the team may simply prefer to have another right-handed hitter available. I guess. But after almost 400 mostly unimpressive plate appearances, I don’t think they are doing Kingery or the team any favors by continuing to keep him around at this point.
In other news, there was some speculation that catcher Wilson Ramos might return for tonight’s series opener against the Red Sox, but it appears his Phillies debut will have to wait at least one more day. They certainly could use his bat. Over the last 30 days, Phillies catchers have posted a league-worst .566 OPS and 36.1 K%. They are hitting only .196 during that stretch.