2010: Neris signed as a free agent with the Phillies, out of the Dominican Republic.
August 3, 2014: Hector was called up to the Majors for the first time.
Neris smiles all of the time, it seems. He has been called "the happiest man in baseball." And his nickname is "Happy Hector."
They say there's no crying in baseball, but Hector broke the rule when he learned he was being called up to the Phillies.
The Lehigh Valley IronPigs had beaten Durham 4-1 in a game that ended at 9:30 p.m. In the clubhouse and training room, where Neris was going through his post-game routine, the televisions were tuned into the Phillies game.
The Phillies game finished just before 10:30 p.m. Neris's postgame treatment was taking longer than usual, not by accident. Unbeknownst to him, the Lehigh Valley coaching staff plus trainer Chris Mudd and strength and conditioning coach Dong Lien all had a hand in stalling him.
The Phillies had decided to option Phillippe Aumont back to the IronPigs. Neris was the choice to replace him. But Aumont had to find out in Washington D.C., before Neris could find out in Allentown. "I knew there needed to be a little bit of a grace period after the ballgame," Brundage said.
Lien and Mudd took their time with Neris in the training room, finally sending him to Brundage's office soon after the Phillies had finished. The only problem was Neris' ride home, Garcia, was sitting in the parking lot texting Neris to hurry up.
Neris entered Brundage's office, only to have his manager tell him, "I gotta shower real quick." Pitching coach Ray Burris talked to Neris while Brundage took his time showering and changing. Finally, they were all ready for a talk.
"We got around to talking about all kinds of things about the running game and holding runners and pitching and strong points and weaknesses and things he needs to improve on," Brundage said.
Brundage then thanked Neris for coming in and sent him on his way, headed out to a patient Garcia in the car. But before he got there, Brundage ran down the hallway after him and told him Burris had one more thing to talk about.
"So he came back in and I let Ray tell him. He said 'Oh yeah, we forgot to tell you that you're going to the big leagues tomorrow,'" Brundage said.
"The look on his face was exactly why I know what I do as a job. It was fun because the emotions obviously came out. It goes to show you how much they love this game and how much it means to them. His expressions throughout were in absolute disbelief."
In case it didn't fully register the first time, Burris told him again: "You're going to the Major Leagues tomorrow." As reality set in, Neris let his emotions get the best of him.
"He felt like he needed to hide his face because the emotions and everything like that," Brundage said. "He didn't want to look but it was OK. It's perfectly natural. It just means you care a lot. It was absolutely phenomenal."
After a journey that included stops at every level of the Phillies' farm system, beginning in the Dominican Summer League, Neris made it to the top in 2014.
"It's fun because you get guys that come through the system and I think a lot of different people have had a hand in helping develop Hector Neris," the Phillies' Triple-A manager at Lehigh Valley, Dave Brundage said. "A lot of pitching coaches should be proud. I sent messages out last night. A lot of pitching coaches have had a hand in helping develop Hector Neris.
"You got a young man from Latin America who doesn't speak any English (when he was signed in 2010). And where he's gone from way back then to last night is why we do what we do in the minor leagues. It's why we care so much and help develop. Things like last night really put things in perspective."
2017: Hector represented the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.
Hector has a filthy baseball cap. He knows this, but Neris said that he has no plans to clean the old one or use a new one. Neris' cap is covered so much with rosin—the front is smeared with white residue—that the Dodgers asked the home-plate umpire to inspect it for any illegal substances in a September 2017 game with the Phillies.
Other than rosin, the cap was clean. "This is the same hat I've used all year," Neris said. "Every time I touched my hat, it was dirty, and when I put the rosin on my hat where it was dirty, it turned colors. And it was sweaty."
Neris said he wasn't upset that the Dodgers asked. In fact, he seemed to expect it. And he seemed prepared for other teams to ask for an inspection the remainder of the season.
"As long as they say, 'All right, it's just dirty, there's nothing wrong,'" Neris said. "Then I don't have problems." (Zolecki - mlb.com - 9/19/17)
July 17, 2019: Neris will appeal MLB’s three-game suspension and fine for intentionally hitting Dodgers first baseman David Freese. Neris drilled Freese in the middle of his back with a 95-mph fastball after he allowed a three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning to pinch-hitter Matt Beaty to hand the Dodgers a two-run lead. The Phillies scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to win the game, 9-8.
Neris and Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said afterward that the pitch was not intentional.
“I wanted to throw inside, and I hit him,” Neris said. “I didn’t hit him on purpose.”
Neris can continue to pitch until the matter is resolved, typically with a hearing.
Aug 1-4, 2019: Neris served his three-game suspension.
September 12, 2019: The Phillies wanted to bring Héctor into the game, but he kept throwing and throwing before he finally left the bullpen. The Phillies said Neris has a new bullpen ritual, which requires extra warmup pitches. But Braves manager Brian Snitker has seen enough.
“They go out and get him, and he just keeps throwing. It’s probably something that’s going to need to be addressed in the future with the league,” Snitker said. “I mean, the guy is told to come, they don’t come in, they just keep throwing, there needs to be a consequence for that. If the reliever gets told to come in the game and he doesn’t come in the game, there needs to be a consequence for it.”
The Braves had runners on second and third with two outs in the eighth when Phillies manager Gabe Kapler wanted to make a pitching change. But first he gestured to J.T. Realmuto to visit the mound, indicating that he needed to buy Neris extra time. After home-plate umpire Roberto Ortiz broke up the extended mound conference, Kapler eventually emerged from the dugout to make a double-switch.
Still, Neris continued to throw warmup pitches in the bullpen. Second-base umpire Lance Barksdale started to make his way out to the bullpen before Neris finally emerged. The same thing happened September 5, 2019, in New York with umpire Ramon DeJesus making it all the way to the warning track before Neris finally left the bullpen.
“When the umpire has to go all the way out to the bullpen,” Snitker said. “I don’t know, I mean the guy just keeps throwing.”
Will Snitker reach out to the league? “It’s not my position,” Snitker said. “They see everything. I’ve got bigger fish to fry than that.” (Zolecki - mlb.com)
June 5-6, 2021: Neris was on the paternity list.
June 14-17, 2022: Neris had his four-game suspension reduced to three games after an appeal to Major League Baseball. The suspension began with the game against the Rangers. Neris wouldn't be available to return until June 17 against the White Sox in Houston, but the Astros will have to play shorthanded until he returns. He was suspended for throwing at Eugenio Suárez of the Mariners on July 6.
Sept. 2022: Neris chose to play for the Dominican Republic in the 2023 WBC.
2010: Neris signed as a free agent with the Phillies, out of the Dominican Republic.
Jan 11, 2019: Hector and the Phillies avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $1.8 million.
Oct. 30, 2020: Hector became a free agent.
Dec 2, 2020: The Phillies agreed to a one-year contract with Neris for $5 million.
Nov. 2, 2021: Neris became a free agent.
- Nov. 27, 2021: The Astros signed righty reliever Héctor Neris to a two-year contract for $17 million.
|Birth City:||Villa Altagracia, D.R.|
|Draft:||2010 - Phillies - Free agent - Out of the D.R.|
Neris is pronounced nair-EASE.
Neris has a 92-97 mph 4-seam FASTBALL, a 91- 95 mph 2-seam SINKER, a rarely-used 87-89 mph SLIDER, an amazing 86-89 mph SPLITTER, and a solid CHANGEUP.
2016 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 31.6% of the time; Sinker 13.7% of the time; Change .2%; Slider 2.2%; and Split 52,2% of the time.
2017 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 38.4% of the time; Sinker 11% of the time; Slider less than 1%; and Split 50.2% of the time.
2018 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 21.9% of the time, his Sinker 13.1%; Change 15.3%; Slider 42%; and Curveball 7.8% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 94.7 mph, Sinker 94.2, Changeup 84, Slider 81.5, and Curve 78.6 mph.
2019 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 26.8% of the time, his Sinker 7.8%; and Split 65.5% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 94.8 mph, Sinker 95.2, and Split 87.3 mph.
2020 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 42.8% of the time, his Sinker 9.5%; and Split 47.8% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 94.2 mph, Sinker 94.7, and Split 85.8 mph.
In 2014, Hector threw his secondary pitches for more strikes.
May 1, 2016: Hector tucked the baseball into his backpack. It sat right on top, perhaps so he could keep an eye on it. "I won't lose it," he said, laughing.
Neris, 26, recorded the first save of his big league career in a 2-1 victory over the Indians, and he kept the ball to remember the moment. He allowed a solo home run to Carlos Santana. But he got Yan Gomes to line out to left field for the second out and he struck out Tyler Naquin swinging on an 88-mph splitter to end the game. Neris removed his cap and raised both arms toward the sky.
"It was incredible, man," Neris said of pitching in the ninth. "They gave me the opportunity, and I'm trying to do well for my team and myself. I'm doing something to help my team win. When I can do that, it's good. When you can do that, you can be happy." (Zolecki - MLB.com)
2016 Improvements: Neris entered spring training as a long shot to make the Phillies' bullpen, but he made the team at the very end because he showed tremendous promise with a recently introduced splitter. Six months later, Neris had had the best season of anybody in the bullpen.
In 2016, he was the Phillies' closer for part of the season. In 2017, for most of the season.
In 2018, he lost his job to Seranthony Dominguez.
In 2019, he got the closer job back when Dominguez got hurt.
2020 Season: The Phillies once again finished with a losing record and missed the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season. The offense, for the most part, did their job all season — ranking fifth in the Major Leagues in runs scored. The pitching, however, was abysmal — ranking 27th in ERA at 5.14.
Among their pitchers who disappointed was relief pitcher Hector Neris. Coming off a 28-save season with an ERA of 2.93, there was hope that Neris had found some consistency. After all, he had 26 saves and a 3.01 ERA in 2017, but plummeted to just 11 saves and an ERA of 5.01 in 2018. Unfortunately, the seesaw nature, which has defined Neris’ career, continued in 2020.
Neris began the season with three straight scoreless appearances with two saves. The wheels started coming off thereafter, allowing three earned runs in an inning and blowing a save opportunity in his next appearance. In fact, Neris would blow two more opportunities over the next four games, as his ERA climbed to a lofty 11.25.
The rollercoaster ride continued for Neris, this time in the right direction. He allowed only one earned run over his next 11 appearances, covering 10 innings, striking out 11. After a loss to the Mets on September 16, allowing a run on two hits in one inning, Neris had three consecutive scoreless appearances, bringing his ERA down under 4.
All told, Neris appeared in 24 games and finished with a 2-2 record, five saves in eight opportunities with an ERA of 4.57. In 21.2 innings, he struck out 27 and walked 13. One of the bright spots to Neris’ season was that he did not allow a home run. (Kerry Kauffman - Dec. 25, 2020)
March 31, 2021: Neris will be the Phillies’ closer if they need one on Opening Day. Manager Joe Girardi made the announcement. Righthander Archie Bradley and lefthander José Alvarado will be Neris’ setup men.
- 2021 Season: 74 G, 4-7, 3.63 ERA, 12 SV
Neris cannot be the Phillies’ closer anymore. That does not mean he can’t be a reliable reliever, however. He got better as the season went on and ended up being the Phillies’ best reliever down the stretch. Unfortunately for him, being the Phillies best reliever doesn’t exactly say much. He should be back next year, but the entirety of the bullpen is the single reason why the Phillies didn't make the playoffs. (Conor Doherty - Oct. 24, 2021)
- 2022 Season: On June 25, Neris combined with Cristian Javier and Ryan Pressly on the first of two Astros combined no-hitters in 2022.
On July 31, Neris came in to pitch the 10th inning of a 2-2 tie with the Seattle Mariners, and collected two strikeouts over a perfect inning. He earned the win when Yordan Alvarez singled home the ghost runner in the bottom of the frame for a 3-2 victory. On September 3, he struck out one in the 10th inning of a 2-1 12-inning loss tot he Anaheim Angels. He earned his highest WPA of the season on September 7, earning a win over the Texas Rangers by pitching a perfect 10th inning in a 4-3 10-inning victory.
Over the whole season, Neris ranked second on the team with 70 appearances, and struck out 73 in 68 1⁄3 innings. His 1.010 WHIP ranked second in the bullpen (to Pressly’s 0.890), and he held the opposition to a .205/.275/.305 slashline.
The postseason would see Neris pitch six innings and allow only one run on two hits. He walked zero and struck out nine. A definite highlight was in Game One of the World Series, when he entered with the bases loaded and two outs, tied 5-5 in the top of the seventh. He struck out Nick Castellanos on five pitches.
Neris will continue to serve as a key piece of one of the deepest bullpens in history through 2023. (Kevin Kraczkowski Nov 26, 2022)
June 30, 2020: Neris was on the IL with Covid-19.
- June 7-18, 2022: Neris was on the IL with left elbow discomfort.