Right now, the mound at Citizens Bank Park is the last place Hector Neris needs to be.
Neris was optioned to Triple A Saturday for the second time this month, with Mark Leiter Jr. replacing him on the Phils' 25-man roster.
It came the day after Neris allowed five runs and three homers in an inning against the Nationals, the worst performance of a season filled with poor ones from the Phils' former closer.
When the Phillies sent Neris down for the first time on June 18, they wanted him to regain confidence in a splitter gone awry. That's always been Neris' weapon, but for much of this season, he's been unable to command it.
After returning to the majors a week later and making two perfect appearances with four strikeouts, disaster struck again for Neris, who Friday against the Nationals was throwing flat fastballs and splitters that lacked downward movement.
"I think last night was a little bit of a shell-shock," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said Saturday.
"There's a lot of attention right now every time Hector goes out there and performs. In Lehigh Valley — I had this happen to me, I was sent down in the middle of a three-year contract — you know that there's not as many people watching. You can practice things that you wouldn't otherwise. You don't care about people looking at an at-bat or for him, an outing. There's just fewer eyeballs, less questions to answer and sometimes that can be a refresher for a player."
The bullpen has not turned out the way the Phillies would have hoped this season. Neris has been demoted twice. Tommy Hunter has a 5.09 ERA. Edubray Ramos and Luis Garcia are on the DL. This team is thanking its lucky stars for Seranthony Dominguez.
In all, the Phils' bullpen ranks 24th in the majors with a 4.42 ERA.
"For this team to be as successful as it can be we need the strong Hector Neris down the stretch," Kapler said. "We felt like the best way to do that was to allow him to work in a really pressure-free environment.
"We want him to feel dependable more than anything else and it's hard to imagine that right now when he goes out on the mound he feels dependable."
Pat Neshek feels strong and ready to go after making his third rehab outing Friday night at Double A Reading and striking out the side.
Neshek, out all season with arm injuries, was in the Phillies' clubhouse Saturday afternoon and was scheduled to meet with Kapler, Phillies pitching coach Rick Kranitz and trainer Scott Sheridan to determine whether his next outing would come in the majors.
Reading between the lines of what Kapler said, Neshek could be activated from the DL Sunday if the parties are in agreement.