The Phillies’ rebuilt bullpen incorporates four new relievers who have experience closing games, but the ninth-inning duties will remain with the same closer from last season’s historically poor unit.
Manager Joe Girardi said Tuesday that Héctor Neris, the team’s primary closer for the last three seasons, will again handle the ninth. Archie Bradley and José Alvarado will be used in setup roles while other newcomers Sam Coonrod and Brandon Kintzler will be utilized when needed.
Neris had a 4.57 ERA in 24 appearances last campaign, converting five of his eight save chances. His production dipped last summer, but Neris’ strikeout rate (11.2 per nine innings), contact rate (61.4%), swing rate (66.2%), and hard-hit rate (39.7%) were similar to his marks in 2019 when he finished with a 2.93 ERA and 28 saves.
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There is an argument that Neris’ biggest detriment last season was bad luck as his batting average on balls in play was .381, the 14th highest among all relievers and 59% higher than it was in 2019.
More balls seemed to fall in last season against Neris, whose FIP — a stat that is similar to ERA but removes the results on balls hit into play — was the 22nd-best among relievers and two runs lower than his ERA.
The Phillies will give Neris the opportunity to show that he’s more the pitcher he was in 2019 than the one who never seemed to find his footing in last year’s truncated season. But if Neris stumbles, there are options waiting to take the ninth inning.
“Héctor’s been a successful closer, Archie’s been a successful closer. I know Alvarado can close and Kintzler’s been a successful closer,” Girardi said.
“I know they can all do it. I just decided to go with Héctor. He’s done it, he’s done it in this town, and I like the way he’s throwing the baseball.”
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