Is it too early to worry about Phillies' Seranthony Dominguez?

Is it too early to worry about Phillies' Seranthony Dominguez?

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.”

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Strange postgame vibe after an inexcusably ugly Phillies loss

Strange postgame vibe after an inexcusably ugly Phillies loss

Where does one begin after a night like this?

With the offense that loaded the bases twice in the first three innings against Clayton Kershaw and stranded all six runners?

With the entire infield, which forgot how many outs there were in a fourth inning that set baseball back 70 years?

With the bullpen full of fringe or inexperienced major-league relievers that turned a six-run game into a 13-run game and stood no chance against the Dodgers' potent lineup?

With the $330 million outfielder who has been outplayed by more than a few visiting superstars at Citizens Bank Park this season?

This 16-2 loss, this was the kind of game that left the manager, the players, the fans and the reporters with more questions than answers.

"It's certainly not encouraging," Gabe Kapler said when asked about the embarrassing performance.

The manager didn't do much expanding. He didn't need to. The fact is the 2019 Dodgers are worlds better than the 2019 Phillies. L.A.'s rotation goes five, six, seven deep. Their lineup can beat you with power, with plate selection, with contact or with small ball like they used in the fourth inning, when they perfectly executed a safety squeeze and a double-steal of second and home.

Facing Kershaw, you're not going into the game with huge expectations. The Phillies were +160 underdogs, one of the biggest underdog lines you will see for a baseball team playing at home. But this was still pathetic. Inexcusable. Baffling. Concerning.

Why is it that opposing offenses can come into this park and make it look small? Why is it that opposing hitters can take such advantage of these juiced baseballs but the Phillies cannot? Cody Bellinger had as many home runs in a three-inning span Monday as Harper has in his last 17 home games.

The Phillies have been outscored 34-8 by the Dodgers, the team every other club in the National League knows it probably must get through to make it to the World Series. What is the Phillies' goal at this point? Is it to chase the wild-card? Is it to make it to a one-game playoff, cross their fingers and call it a job well done?

That wasn't the goal in the spring, when this team had 90-plus win aspirations and looked like it might feature five All-Stars.

This is why the game isn't played on paper, they say.

"I think after yesterday's game everybody's real positive and after a game like tonight you feel like you got kicked in the teeth," said Jay Bruce, who stranded six runners. "You get to start over each day and you get to start a game at 0-0 and have an opportunity to win. We have to play better, for sure. But as poorly as we've played, we're still right there in the wild-card hunt and you never know what's going to happen in the division so we just need to play like we can and play more consistent baseball and see what happens. ... A night like tonight is tough but we get to come back tomorrow and do it again."

There weren't many players in the clubhouse when it opened. Harper was sitting right there waiting, like he always does, no matter the game's outcome. He deserves credit for that, even if some of his answers rang hollow.

Zach Eflin, who has allowed 22 runs in his last 20 innings, actually took some positives from his start.

"I really felt like I probably gave up only two hard-ish hit balls that (fourth) inning," he said. "But at the end of the day, I felt like I got better today. I thought me and J.T. (Realmuto) did a good job of mixing pitches and really getting my curveball and changeup over. So although the box score doesn't really look too good, I feel like I took a lot of positives from today.

"We're all calm. There's no need to panic. We know how good we're going to be and it's just going to take that one time, that one game that everything clicks and then it's going to be a fun rest of the year."

They're fine. Everything is fine. The season isn't deteriorating two weeks before the trade deadline.

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Phillies embarrassed by Dodgers and have 2 of the ugliest innings you'll ever see

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Phillies embarrassed by Dodgers and have 2 of the ugliest innings you'll ever see


What a completely humiliating loss for the Phillies.

It wasn't just that they were blown out, 16-2, by the visiting Dodgers. It was the way it unfolded and the way it sounded.

The Dodgers, with so many of their fans chanting and cheering throughout the night, scored six runs in the Phillies' ugliest inning of the season, the top of the fourth Monday. 

They went single, RBI double, groundout, RBI single, walk, RBI single, safety squeeze RBI single, sacrifice, RBI single, double steal of 2nd and home.

The Dodgers' catcher, Austin Barnes, laid down the successful squeeze. Cesar Hernandez was shifted all the way toward the second base bag and had no chance to scamper to first in time to receive the throw from Zach Eflin. A few batters later, it was again the catcher Barnes who stole home.

And that wasn't even the worst look of the inning. When Eflin struck out Alex Verdugo for the third out, the Phillies were so out of it that the entire infield appeared to not know it was the third out. Realmuto trickled the ball back to the pitcher, Eflin and his fielders stood around, and then after a few seconds, all realized in unison the inning was over and walked toward the dugout. 

The boos just rained down.

You can't blame Phillies fans at this point. They've been watching bad baseball for six weeks. An offense that can't consistently pick up the big hit, a rotation that can't get six innings deep nearly enough, a bullpen that can't protect leads.

It all bubbled to the surface Monday in an ugly loss, the kind of loss one would hope leads to a team meeting or a tough conversation or something that shows these coaches and players are taking the mounting losses personally.

And it got even worse

The Dodgers later added four homers, two by Cody Bellinger. Bellinger had as many home runs at CBP Monday as Bryce Harper has in his last 17 home games.

And still, it got worse. In the eighth inning, Yacksel Rios was ejected for hitting Justin Turner after Verdugo's homer, Edgar Garcia couldn't get a third out, the Dodgers scored five more runs and the Phillies were forced to insert Roman Quinn to pitch ... with the bases loaded. Quinn did get the inning-ending flyout before allowing two more runs in the ninth.

The Phillies are 48-46. Tomorrow night is Vince Velasquez against Walker Buehler.

Missed opportunities

The Phillies loaded the bases in the first and third innings against Clayton Kershaw and stranded all six runners. Jay Bruce was the main culprit, flying out to end the first and striking out on three pitches with one out and the sacks full in the third.

The Phillies reached base twice via error against Kershaw in the third inning. When you're facing a Hall of Fame pitcher, you have to cash in when you get the chance. The Phillies couldn't. You almost knew before the Dodgers even crossed the plate that this would be costly.

Segura dinged?

Jean Segura was limping in the field in the top of the ninth and again after his groundout in the bottom of the ninth. Manager Gabe Kapler said after the game that Segura was being examined but had no further update. We'll know more Tuesday.

Up next

The Phillies again miss NL All-Star starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, but that just means they get the rest of the Dodgers' strong rotation.

Tuesday night at 7:05 — Vince Velasquez (2-5, 4.63) vs. Walker Buehler (8-1, 3.46)

Wednesday night at 7:05 — Nick Pivetta (4-4, 5.81) vs. Kenta Maeda (7-6, 3.82)

Thursday afternoon at 12:35 — Aaron Nola (8-2, 3.63) vs. Ross Stripling (4-3, 3.65)

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