The Phillies Are Officially Making a Change at Closer Role

Jose Alvarado #46 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Jose Alvarado #46 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

The Phillies have demoted Hector Neris from the closer role

After taking the Phillies‘ off-day Thursday to consider his options, Joe Girardi has made a change at the closer role after all.

Hector Neris is out, José Alvarado is in.

Neris, who has been with the Phillies for his entire eight-year big-league career, has struggled mightily of late. He has a 3.54 ERA and 4.65 FIP on the season, but his numbers in June have been concerning enough for Girardi to make the change: a 10.80 ERA and batters slashing .333/.478/.667 with a 1.145 OPS against him over six appearances.

The contrast between Neris’ May performances and June is stark: he allowed just three earned runs over 11 games in May, and finished the month with a 2.38 ERA. Lineups were hitting .175 against him, or more accurately, could not hit off him. Neris has allowed six earned runs over three of his six appearances this month. He also has three blown saves; he only blew one save in April and one in May.

It’s unclear what has precipitated Neris’ troubles. Between April 1-May 31, he had a 1.96 ERA with 27 strikeouts over 23 innings (24 games) and had only allowed five earned runs. Is he overworked? Tipping his pitches? Injured? Girardi and the pitching staff will have to play detective and figure it out.

If he returns to his pre-June form, Neris will likely be allowed to reclaim his role. But for now, Alvarado will be Girardi’s go-to man in the ninth.

Can Jose Alvarado take over as Phillies closer?

The hard-throwing Alvarado was one of Dave Dombrowski’s offseason additions. He has performed to a 2.70 ERA over 26 2/3 innings over 29 games this season.

Unlike Neris, Alvarado struggled in May and has improved in June. Last month, he posted a 5.79 ERA over 12 games (9 1/3 innings), but held opposing batters to a .188 AVG and .759 OPS.

So far in June, he’s appeared in eight games, but has also thrown 9 1/3 innings, and has a .96 ERA, with opposing batters slashing .111/.273/.222 with a .495 OPS.

Of course, it’s worth noting that Alvarado has spent a lot more time as a set-up man than a closer; he’s pitched in the 8th inning 17 times this season, but only four times in the 9th, and once in extra innings. As such, his closer stats are a small sample size; 2.25 ERA with seven strikeouts over four innings.

Can Alvarado succeed where Neris has struggled? The Phillies have lost too many close games recently not to give him a shot.

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