PHILADELPHIA -- In part to add an extra reliever for their two-game set against the slugging Red Sox, in part because they believe their former closer has returned to form, the Phillies added a familiar face to their bullpen Tuesday. The club recalled right-hander Hector Neris and optioned infielder J.P.
PHILADELPHIA -- In part to add an extra reliever for their two-game set against the slugging Red Sox, in part because they believe their former closer has returned to form, the Phillies added a familiar face to their bullpen Tuesday. The club recalled right-hander Hector Neris and optioned infielder J.P. Crawford to Triple-A Lehigh Valley in a corresponding move.
Neris opened the season as the Phillies' closer, but he lost his job after posting a 7.71 ERA over a nine-appearance stretch in May. He was demoted after allowing three home runs in a 17-7 loss to the Nationals on June 29, lugging a 6.90 ERA with him. But the 29-year-old excelled at Triple-A, pitching to a 1.75 ERA across 19 appearances for the IronPigs.
"We will use him in important situations going forward," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "The reports were outstanding. The swing and misses have been significant. The walk rates have been low. He's been attacking with his fastball more in the zone. The numbers say he's ready to step into big situations for us again."
Neris said the adjustments he made at Lehigh Valley were more mental than physical, though he said his signature split-fingered fastball regained its effectiveness.
"[Down there], they told me not to think too much, keep the tempo, keep everything fluid," Neris said. "'Who is the hitter? What's the sign? Now throw the pitch you want to throw.'"
Neris gives the Phillies a nine-man bullpen, swelling a unit that's excelled in recent weeks. Philadelphia has the Majors' top bullpen ERA (2.73) since the start of July. Promoting the right-hander also offered the club the chance to alleviate a roster logjam on the position player side. With newly acquired Justin Bour set to receive most of the left-handed pinch-hitting chances, few opportunities figured to exist for Crawford, who'd been a non-factor since recovering from a broken left hand.
Crawford did not appear in any of the Phillies' three games since he was activated from the disabled list Friday. The 23-year-old rookie was hitting .194/.312/.333 across 34 games when he was injured in late June. Kapler cited that missed time as a determining factor in the decision to demote Crawford instead of Scott Kingery, who is hitting .223/.266/.321.
Essentially, the club decided there was more value in carrying an extra bullpen arm than two utility players in the short-term.
"Kingery has had an incredible amount of development time at the Major League level this season … where as J.P. has missed some development time," Kapler said. "For J.P., as tough as it is, his role on this club, it's not a clear one. With all of that in mind, we felt it made the most sense for J.P.'s development for the next couple of weeks by getting him into a rhythm a little bit and allowing him to play regularly."
Ramos close to debuting
Another, major roster move appears earmarked for later this week, as the Phillies expect Wilson Ramos to make his team debut imminently. Acquired from the Rays prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline, Ramos completed a three-game rehab assignment with Class A Advanced Clearwater on Monday, catching nine innings. He'll return to Philadelphia to be evaluated by team doctors in the coming days. Ramos has been on the DL with a left hamstring strain since July 18.
As for his timetable, Kapler said: "Nothing is set in stone and nothing is off the table."
Around the horn
• The Phillies made another transaction Tuesday, trading right-hander Jake Thompson to the Brewers for cash. Thompson, who had a 4.96 ERA in nine games this season, was designated for assignment to clear 40-man space for Bour last week. Originally acquired from Texas in the Cole Hamels trade, Thompson made 30 appearances (18 starts) for Philadelphia over the past three seasons.
• Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff was scheduled to pitch four innings for Clearwater on Tuesday. It'll be the second outing of this most recent rehab assignment for Eickhoff, who made 57 starts for the Phillies from 2016-17. He has been sidelined all season due to a right lat strain and tingling in his throwing fingers.
In an attempt to kick-start the Phillies' sluggish offense, Kapler significantly rejiggered his lineup prior to Tuesday's series opener against Boston. Of the notable changes: Carlos Santana was dropped from the cleanup spot in favor of Rhys Hoskins, Asdrubal Cabrera was lifted into the No.3 slot and Nick Williams slotted in second.
Kapler cited the platoon flexibility the new arrangement provides. By slotting three switch-hitters in the first six spots (Cesar Hernandez, first; Cabrera third, Santana fifth), Kapler was able to alternate righties and lefties between them (left-handed Williams second, right-handed Hoskins fourth and righty Maikel Franco sixth). But the changes are clearly also centered on Santana, who was bumped from the No. 4 hole for the first time since June 2. After reaching a season-high .804 OPS on June 23, Santana has hit .192 with a .650 OPS since.
"It's not some major shakeup juggle," Kapler said. "I think it's just, 'Let's take a fresh look at this.'"
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.