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Neshek could be next Phillies closer

MLB.com @ToddZolecki

ATLANTA -- The Phillies' closer carousel is spinning again.

Pat Neshek could be transitioning into the job because Hector Neris' splitter is not the wipeout pitch it has been in the past and the Phillies want to fix it. If Neshek closes, even temporarily, he would be the Phillies' fourth closer following Jeanmar Gomez, Joaquin Benoit and Neris.

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ATLANTA -- The Phillies' closer carousel is spinning again.

Pat Neshek could be transitioning into the job because Hector Neris' splitter is not the wipeout pitch it has been in the past and the Phillies want to fix it. If Neshek closes, even temporarily, he would be the Phillies' fourth closer following Jeanmar Gomez, Joaquin Benoit and Neris.

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Neris allowed a couple of baserunners in the ninth inning of Tuesday night's 3-1 victory over the Braves at SunTrust Park. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin pulled him for Neshek, who recorded the game's final two outs.

Neshek is 1-1 with a 0.82 ERA and one save in 24 appearances this season. He has eight saves in his career.

"We've got to go to work on Neris," Mackanin said.

Batters hit .152 with a .255 slugging percentage last season against Neris' splitter, according to Statcast™. They are hitting .233 with a .367 slugging percentage against it this year. It is interesting that batters have been much more successful against his splitter since he became the closer and picked up his first save on April 20.

He had a .083/.083 BA/SLG split against the pitch (12 at-bats) before April 20. He has a .271/.438 split against the pitch (48 at-bats) since.

"We'll have him in here and discuss his lack of success lately and try to figure out his split," Mackanin said. "Unhittable last year and he's hanging all his splitters."

Neshek said in the past that he is most comfortable pitching in hold situations, perhaps meaning he is not comfortable closing. But Neshek said Tuesday he will close if needed.

"Roles don't matter to me," Neshek said. "It's pitching. You're going to get on the same mound and face the same guys."

Neshek said it is easier to focus on pitching in the middle innings because it is easier to know when he will be used as opposed to a closer, who might go days without pitching or not know he is needed until the last minute.

But certainly the Phillies need Neshek to continue to pitch well, regardless of the role. Not only because they need effective performances in the bullpen, but because his continued success improves his value before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Neshek seems likely to be traded to a contender if he continues to pitch well.

"You always want to play competitive baseball in August and September," Neshek said. "I'm sure if I get traded, it's going to be a team that's contending. Would it mean a lot? Not really. It doesn't really matter to me. I've been on numerous playoff teams. It'd be nice to win a World Series, but I think anywhere you go, you're going to be trying to get there."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Philadelphia Phillies, Pat Neshek