Dan's Dugout: New Dominican Star Brightens Philly Sky • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: New Dominican Star Brightens Philly Sky


PHILADELPHIA – Remember the name Hector Neris.

He’s a righthanded relief pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies who is standing National League hitters on their collective ears.

He did it last year too but nobody noticed, with the possible exception of Phillies manager Pete Mackanin.

Before yielding a ninth-inning leadoff homer to Adonis Garcia Friday night in Citizens Bank Park, the

Hector Nevis is making a name for himself in Philly

Hector Nevis is making a name for himself in Philly

6’2″, 218-pound fireballer had allowed only four baserunners in 8 1/3 innings to start the 2017 season. Needless to say, nobody came close to scoring against him.

In fact, batters have a better chance at swinging and missing.

That’s what Tyler Flowers did on a 3-2 count with two men on and two men out in the top of the ninth, giving the Phils a 4-3 win on a rainy, cold night that included a 26-minute delay in the last inning.

Neris was merely picking up where he left off last year. He finished the 2016 season with 102 strikeouts, second only to Dick Selma among Phillies relievers, in 80 1/3 innings. Selma fanned 153 men in 1970.

A Dominican who pitched for his country in the World Baseball Classic, Neris had a two-year average of 11.27 strikeouts per nine innings (111 strikeouts in 88 2/3 innings) before the current Braves series began.

He opened the season as a set-up man for veteran Joaquin Benoit but that status seems to be changing on a club that is obviously rebuilding. So far, Mackanin is making no commitments but Neris is making that position tenuous.

Plagued by pitching problems, the Phillies dropped nine of their first 15, earning them a piece of the

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin finally has something to smile about

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin finally has something to smile about

National League East basement along with the Braves.

Philadelphia outscored opponents, 72-70, in its first 15 games while averaging 4.33 runs per game. They even picked up a combined three wins against the Mets and Nationals, arguably the best teams in the division.

Neris, signed as an amateur free agent seven years ago, first reached the majors in 2014, when he pitched one inning but worked 32 times a year later while shuttling between Citizens Bank Park and Lehigh Valley. He stuck for good in 2016, when his 79 appearances tied for third among National League relief men.

The 27-year-old righthander, used almost exclusively in set-up roles before this season, had only two career saves before 2017. That stat is changing in a hurry.

So is his anonymous status. If he continues on his present pace, the reliever could receive an invitation to the All-Star Game in Miami — even if the Phils have no more than one man on the NL squad.

Fans who never heard of him are likely to get a quick introduction.

Elsewhere in baseball:

Also making a strong bid for an All-Star berth, Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman reached base in 12 straight plate appearances, an Atlanta club record . . .

Chris Sale is racking up strikeouts for the Red Sox

Chris Sale is racking up strikeouts for the Red Sox

In his first 29 2/3 innings as the new ace of the Boston Red Sox, Chris Sale fanned 42 men and held hitters to a .129 batting average . . .

With an eye on the upcoming Yankee series in Boston, veteran lefthander CC Sabathia hopes to reduce his career 5.48 earned run average at Fenway Park . . .

The obvious Achilles heel of the Washington Nationals is a bullpen that took a 6.08 earned run average into Friday’s game against the Mets . . .

Umpire Dale Scott was once a Top 40 AM radio disc jockey . . .

Say what? White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia led the American League with a .423 batting average before Friday play began . . .

Say what, National League edition: Milwaukee first baseman Eric Thames, out of the majors since 2012, has more home runs than the entire Boston Red Sox roster.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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