Phillies clear out ‘pen, decline options on Neris, Phelps

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia Phillies have declined options on relievers Héctor Neris, David Phelps and David Robertson, clearing out the bullpen after it posted the highest ERA in the majors.

Philadelphia also said Friday that right-hander Heath Hembree, left-hander Adam Morgan and right-hander Blake Parker all elected free agency rather than accept outright assignments off the 40-man roster. Right-hander Johan Quezada was claimed off waivers from Miami, and infielder Phil Gosselin also refused an outright assignments and elected free agency.

Neris is eligible for arbitration. Robertson and Phelps are eligible to become free agents this weekend.

Neris’ option was worth $7,111,111, including $111,111 in escalators for games finished. He was Philadelphia’s most reliable reliever in 2019 but struggled in 2020 after landing on the COVID-19 injured list during summer camp workouts. The right-hander posted a 4.57 ERA with five saves in 24 games, among the biggest disappointments for a bullpen that had a 7.06 ERA. His contract did not include a buyout.

Phelps was acquired from Milwaukee on Aug. 31, and his performance crumbled immediately. He had a 2.77 ERA in 12 games prior to the trade and a 12.91 ERA in 10 appearances after. Phelps’ option was for $4.5 million and included a $250,000 buyout.

Robertson was signed to a $23 million, two-year deal prior to the 2019 season but pitched in just seven games due to Tommy John surgery. His contract included a $12 million option for 2021 with a $2 million buyout.

Hembree was also acquired midseason and had a 12.54 ERA. Morgan dealt with shoulder issues and had a 5.54 ERA. The 35-year-old Parker was one of the few bright spots in the bullpen with a 2.81 ERA in 14 games.

Pitching coach Bryan Price retired after the season, and his replacement has not been named.

Quezada, 26, made his major league debut with Miami last season but hadn’t pitched above Class A prior to that. The 6-foot-9 right-handed reliever allowed three runs in three innings with the Marlins. He averaged 97 mph on his fastball but has struggled with his control.

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