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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Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

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Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

Most of the baseball world agrees that the Phillies are improved with the additions of No. 2 starter Zack Wheeler, shortstop Didi Gregorius, and the new contingent of manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Bryan Price and hitting coach Joe Dillon.

The question is how much improved?

The Phils won 81 games last season, a year after winning 80. Both years, they totally collapsed in September. Both years, a good number of players were simply playing out the string, though the effort level was more questionable in 2018 than in 2019.

Even though the Phillies were quiet this offseason after their two big signings, and even though the NL East is still a beast, they should still exceed 81 wins. If they don't, there's a serious problem. If they don't, the GM probably won't be here to try to rectify things next offseason.

The over/under win totals are out and the Phillies' number is 85.5 at FanDuel and 84.5 at DraftKings.

I'd go over at 84.5. Think about how many injuries the Phillies suffered last season. Think about the talent gap between Wheeler and every Phillies starting pitcher behind Aaron Nola last season. The impact of Girardi, Price and Dillon won't be all that quantifiable, but it is realistic that this revamped coaching staff can conjure a few more wins out of the 2020 Phillies, whether it's in-game decision-making or better instructions given to young players who underperformed last season.

At DraftKings, the Mets' over/under is a game better than the Phillies' at 85.5. The Braves are at 90.5 and the Nationals 88.5. The Marlins are at 64.5, higher than only one team, the Tigers.

Much more surprising are the Phillies' World Series odds. They have the sixth-shortest odds to win it all. Seriously. They're +1800. Here is the Top 10:

Yankees: 3.5/1
Dodgers: 5/1
Astros: 6/1
Braves: 11/1
Nationals: 14/1
Phillies: 18/1
Mets: 20/1
Twins: 20/1
Red Sox: 22/1
Cubs: 22/1

Apparently, the expectation is that the NL Central will be bringing up the rear in 2020. Really, the only NL Central team that improved was the Reds. The Cardinals lost Marcell Ozuna, the Brewers lost Yasmani Grandal and the Cubs didn't spend money on a single major-league free agent.

Four of the top seven teams being NL East teams just shows you how much of a battle these next seven months will be for the Phils.

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Phillies add veteran depth in bullpen, infield with a flurry of signings

Phillies add veteran depth in bullpen, infield with a flurry of signings

Three weeks before the start of spring training, the Phillies were busy Wednesday finalizing minor-league contracts with three pitchers and a utility infielder.

The team announced the signings of veteran relievers Drew Storen, Bud Norris and Francisco Liriano, as well as veteran infielder Neil Walker.

Of the group, Liriano, 36, might have the best chance to impact the 2020 Phillies. The left-hander, a starter for the bulk of his major-league career, was used exclusively as a reliever with Pittsburgh last season. He pitched in 69 games and recorded an ERA of 3.47 over 70 innings. Liriano was particularly effective against lefty hitters, holding them to a .194 batting average (14 for 72.)

Storen, 32, and Norris, 34, are both right-handers with significant big-league time. Neither pitched in the majors last season because of health reasons. Storen was recovering from Tommy John surgery and Norris had a forearm injury. There are opportunities in the Phillies’ bullpen and both will be given a look in spring training.

Walker, 34, is an 11-year veteran who has spent much of his career as a regular second baseman, mostly with Pittsburgh. He has bounced around the diamond in recent seasons, particularly with the New York Yankees in 2018, where he played first base, second base, third base and both corner outfield spots. He played first, second and third with the Miami Marlins last season and hit .261 with eight homers and 38 RBIs in 337 at-bats.

Walker, a switch-hitter, will vie for a spot as a reserve with the Phillies. Rosters expand from 25 to 26 men this season and that will allow the Phillies to carry an extra player on their bench. There are plenty of candidates for that job. Earlier this winter, the Phillies signed veteran infielders Josh Harrison, Phil Gosselin and Ronald Torreyes to minor-league deals. The team is also bringing veteran outfielders Matt Szczur and Mikie Mahtook to big-league camp on minor-league deals. The competition for a spot as a reserve outfielder will also include Nick Williams and Nick Martini, both of whom are on the 40-man roster.

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