The Philadelphia Phillies entered the ninth inning of Sunday's game with the Milwaukee Brewers with a five-run cushion. Manager Gabe Kapler, perhaps hoping to build the confidence of Hector Neris, brought the 29-year-old righty into what was a low-leverage situation. The Phillies did win Sunday's rubber-match against the National League's best team, but not before it became a high-leverage situation.
Neris allowed a leadoff home run to Jesus Aguilar, cutting the Phillies lead to 10-6. Five batters later, Eric Thames launched a three-run home run, leaving the Phillies with just a one-run lead. The Phillies did hold onto that one-run lead, but only after Jake Thompson replaced Neris.
Just two years removed from being one of the league's better set-up men, Sunday's performance caused Neris' ERA to balloon to 6.00. The Phillies announced Monday afternoon that Neris, who had one remaining option, has been sent to Triple-A.
Some suggested after Sunday's game that the Phillies outright release Neris - which is what they ultimately did with Jeanmar Gomez around this time last year. But with an option remaining, the Phillies had nothing to lose by sending Neris to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He's proven in past seasons to be a very effective reliever when his splitter is clicking, so perhaps a mental break at Triple-A will allow him to reset and return to the Phillies in the second-half of the season, when they'll presumably still be in the postseason race in some form. If not, they don't lose anything (except maybe an International League game or two) by sending him down.
Regardless of what role you believe that Seranthony Dominguez should pitch in, it's understood that he can't pitch three or four innings every night. The Phillies need to find consistent relief pitching from someone other than Dominguez. Perhaps Pat Neshek will return in July and provide the same consistency that made him an All-Star a year ago. Perhaps Matt Klentak will make an external acquisition to boost the team's bullpen. But there's no doubt that an effective Neris would increase the Phillies chances of reaching the postseason.
While Neris didn't struggle to this same degree in 2017, he was significantly better in the second-half a year ago. After posting a 3.52 ERA in the first half of the 2017 season, Neris recorded 19 saves, while posting a 2.48 ERA in 35 games in the second half of the 2017 season.
With Neris optioned, the Phillies called up 25-year-old lefty Austin Davis to take his place. Davis, a 12th-round pick in 2014, had a 2.70 ERA in 26 games in 2018 split between Double-A and Triple-A. He'll give the Phillies a second left-handed relief option in addition to Adam Morgan.