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If Héctor Neris' 2021 season taught the Philadelphia Phillies anything, it's that he should never close for the ball club again.

While it's true that Neris was likely the best option for closer on the Phillies roster over the last few seasons, it became evident this past year that he thrives elsewhere: in middle relief.

Neris once again began the season as the Phillies closer, but was demoted from the role on June 26 in favor of Jose Alvarado, which was questionable due to the rate at which Alvarado walks batters. But on the same day Neris was demoted, he picked up the save in a Phillies win over the New York Mets.

This didn't earn him his job back though, and he was better off for it. Neris' ERA peaked at 5.17 on July 4 after a brutal outing in which he allowed six runs on four hits in just 0.2 IP versus the San Diego Padres in an 11-1 rout.

But in a matter of weeks, Neris went from exiled from the closer's role by manager Joe Girardi to becoming arguably his most reliable arm out of the pen, one that he consistently turned to to keep the Phillies in games in his newfound role.

In 40 games after that awful appearance on Independence Day, Neris pitched to the likes of a 2.51 ERA, and picked up 59 strikeouts in 43 IP, with opponents posting just a .586 OPS against him to finish off the season.

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Neris relied primarily on four pitches this season: splitter, four-seam fastball, sinker, and slider. The movement on his splitter was absolutely filthy this season, and induced a whiff percentage of 45%. Along with his sinker and slider, that produced a 31.9% and 30%, respectively.

He was electric out of the pen to finish 2021, picking up the big outs when the Phillies needed him to. That includes this moment below, in which Neris waved Girardi off from taking him out of the game, being seen mouthing to him "I got this."

And Neris did just that, inducing a groundball to the mound off the bat of Ke'Bryan Hayes to escape the bases loaded jam in the eighth, charging over to the bag to get the out.

Neris also reached a milestone for his career and cemented his name in Phillies history forever when he picked up his 520th strikeout in relief on Oct. 3, surpassing Ron Reed for the most all-time for the franchise.

Don't let his seven blown saves from the first-half of the season hinder you from realizing just how effective Neris was for most of 2021, particularly down the stretch for Philadelphia. Overall, he finished 2021 with a 3.63 ERA, 1.170 WHIP, 12 saves, and 98 strikeouts in 74.1 IP. 

Neris will be a free agent this offseason, which Inside the Phillies previously wrote about here, proclaiming that President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski and the club should prioritize re-signing the 32-year-old.

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