Catasauqua Press

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Neris has excelled since rejoining the IronPigs

Friday, August 10, 2018 by CHUCK HIXSON Special to the Press in Sports

Players have been coming and going between Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley and Reading the past week. The Phillies acquired catcher Wilson Ramos and lefty reliever Aaron Loup in trades at last week’s trade deadline, necessitating one move that led to others.

Ramos is battling back from a hamstring injury and was placed on the disabled list, but there was time to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for him.

Loup had to be added to both the 40- and 25-man rosters. Those moves turned out to be trouble for outfielder Trevor Plouffe and reliever Zac Curtis, who were both designated for assignment.

Curtis was on the IronPigs roster and it’s still not clear whether Plouffe or Curtis will accept their assignment to Lehigh Valley or become free agents.

Dylan Cozens, who had won the International League Player of the Week award the week before, was summoned to Philadelphia to take the place of Plouffe.

Lehigh Valley saw a familiar face return when infielder Jesmuel Valentin was optioned back to the IronPigs when Isdrubal Cabrera, who was acquired late last month, was officially added to the Phillies roster.

One guy who is waiting patiently through all of this is reliever Hector Neris.

The right-hander was optioned back to Lehigh Valley on June 18 only to be recalled a week later after having made just two relief appearance with the ‘Pigs.

After being hit for five runs in one inning, Neris was sent back to the IronPigs on June 30 and is patiently waiting to return.

“I’m ready when they want me,” said Neris before Sunday’s series finale with Syracuse. “I feel good. I’ve pitched good. I’m ready.”

Since rejoining the ‘Pigs, Neris has made 15 relief appearances and has been scored upon in just one of those outings. That was on July 20 when Toledo blew him up for three earned runs in one inning of work. Even with that outing, Neris has pitched to a 1.84 ERA with a win and a save in the process. In 14 2/3 innings, he’s struck out a remarkable 24 batters while walking five.

Opponents have hit just .137 (7-for-51) against Neris in his most recent stint with Lehigh Valley.

The biggest problem for Neris while he was in Philadelphia was that his splitter, which had been his lights-out pitch but suddenly hitters began hitting it hard and far.

Neris allowed eight home runs in just 27 innings with the Phillies and he was sent back to Lehigh Valley to work with pitching coach Dave Lundquist to get his splitter back to where it was before.

“Throwing a splitter isn’t easy,” said Lundquist. “The slightest thing goes a little off and the pitch can level out and if you leave it up in the zone, it’s going to get hit. We found a couple things where Hector was a little off and he’s worked hard to get things worked out. He came down with the right attitude. He wasn’t bitter. He just wanted to get to work and fix things.”

While the Phillies bullpen has generally been pretty good lately, it never hurts to have as many strong arms in the pen as possible, especially late in the game.

With the emergence of Seranthony Dominguez in the closer’s role, nobody really expects Neris to return to that role in Philadelphia.

Neris saved 26 games last season for the Phillies and has 10 from earlier this season but he’s OK with handing over those reins to someone else.

“I really just want to pitch to be able to help the team,” said Neris with his ever-present smile. Pitching at Lehigh Valley is nice but pitching in Philadelphia would be better.”

THREE-PEAT... For the third time this season, Joey Meneses was named the IL Player of the Week. Meneses hit four home runs, drove in 11 and hit .400 (12-for-30) last week with the IronPigs. Coming into play this week, Meneses leads the league in home runs (21) and RBI (71) and is second in average (.318).

FINALLY... With their win in Buffalo in game one of a doubleheader last Wednesday, the Pigs reached the .500 mark overall for the first time in team history with a record of 572-572. Unfortunately, they lost the second game and were unable to put themselves over the coveted mark until Sunday. A win over Syracuse put the IronPigs at 575-574 all-time.