Here’s an indication of how important potential bullpen stud Seranthony Dominguez is to the Phillies:
The Phils on Saturday suffered a loss to the Minnesota Twins largely because they couldn’t generate enough offense to overcome a couple of mistakes that starting pitcher Jake Arrieta made in the third inning.
But after the 6-2 defeat (see observations), most of the questions surrounded Dominguez.
Is he healthy?
What happened to his command?
Ditto for his fastball velocity?
Dominguez walked a batter, hit another and served up a three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning as a one-run deficit turned into a four-run deficit.
In three outings totaling 2 1/3 innings in the early season, Dominguez has given up three hits, including a homer, two walks, a hit batsman and four runs. The power-armed righty, obviously, has had command issues and that can happen early in a season, especially with the natural cutting action he features on his fastball. But the bigger concern is a slight drop in velocity. Dominguez’ fastball averaged nearly 98 mph last season. It was down a little more than one mph on Saturday, according to Statcast.
Dominguez downplayed any concerns about his velocity after the game.
“I’m not worried at all,” he said through Diego Ettedgui, the team’s Spanish-language translator. “I think that the more I pitch, my velocity is going to get better. I feel 100 percent. I’m not worried at all.
“I’m working hard. I’m doing a good job. Things like this happen in baseball sometimes. So if they give me the opportunity tomorrow, I’ll try my best again.”
Manager Gabe Kapler also downplayed any concerns.
“Seranthony didn’t have his best command today,” Kapler said.
Kapler added that he did not have “a specific reason” for the drop in velocity.
“I think he's just building up to his full strength right now,” Kapler said. “It's something that we've been working on with him, really using his legs and driving off the slope.”
Dominguez, 24, burst on the scene as a weapon in the first half of last season — he debuted with 15 2/3 scoreless innings and had a 1.85 ERA in his first 34 appearances — but tailed off down the stretch. He pitched to a 5.21 ERA over his final 19 appearances from Aug. 5 to the end of last season. Now, he’s debuted poorly this season.
While there doesn’t appear to be any concerns about Dominguez’ physical health, it is worth considering what these struggles can do to his confidence. Relievers thrive on that magic potion.
Dominguez said his was fine.
“I’m going to be honest with you,” he said. “I don’t care what happened last year. That’s in the past. I’m focused on right now. Even what happened today already happened. There’s nothing I can do about it. So for me, it’s all about tomorrow now and I have to get ready for the next game.”
One good one, with some command and big pop on the fastball, could get Dominguez on a roll. That’s how mercurial relievers are. And, make no mistake, Dominguez is hugely important to this team. So are David Robertson and Hector Neris, two late-game relievers who have also been slow getting started.
Kapler said he and his staff would do everything possible to get Dominguez — and others in the bullpen — on a productive roll. And only collective success will quiet the clamor for the club to sign free agent Craig Kimbrel.
“Seranthony is still a young, developing pitcher who is working at his craft, and it's our responsibility to give him a good foundation,” Kapler said. “I think you want everything to be smooth from the start. It hasn't been from a bullpen perspective, though there have been some bright spots. We have to go back to the drawing board and get together and just get a game plan together to fix it.”
Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.