CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Any time a pitcher has his elbow surgically reconstructed, he worries if he’ll ever be the same again. He wouldn’t be human if he didn’t.
Seranthony Dominguez took a very important step -- physically and mentally -- in his recovery from Tommy John surgery on Tuesday. In his spring debut, the 27-year-old reliever struck out the side in the fourth inning. He powered through three Detroit Tigers hitters on 14 pitches, 12 of which were strikes.
Manager Joe Girardi called the performance the highlight of his day.
“He was really good, much different than we saw at the end of last year,” Girardi said. “Just the life on his ball. We saw 97 (mph) today. And it’s his first outing. His slider was good. Just the confidence that you could see in him. He didn’t labor one bit. He was like, ‘Here it is. This is who I am. This is my stuff. I’m going to make good pitches.’
“That’s a huge piece if he gets back to where he was. Huge piece.”
Dominguez had an outstanding rookie season in 2018. He pitched in 53 games and had a 2.95 ERA and 16 saves. In 58 innings, he allowed just 32 hits and struck out 74.
He injured his elbow the next season and had surgery in the summer of 2020. He pitched one inning in the majors in 2021 -- on the last day of the season.
Over the winter, Dominguez worked on building arm strength and took it upon himself to drop 39 pounds, going from 238 to 199. Tuesday’s outing was a small reward for his hard work, with more to come, he hopes.
“I’ve been working very hard for this moment,” he said afterward. “I felt really good, like strong, like I’m ready to compete, ready to get people out.
“I was happy with the slider because it wasn’t the way I wanted it last year. The movement was really good, like straight down.”
Of the 14 pitches that Dominguez threw, four resulted in a swing and miss.
“That tells me there’s deception and there’s stuff,” Girardi said.
Dominguez was pleased to hear that he reached 97 on the radar gun.
“I was worried because I want to be the guy that I was before,” he said. “I know velocity isn’t everything, but I like it. I love it. The most important thing is being consistent and making quality pitches. But I like velo, too. I’m not going to lie.”
The Phillies have remade the back of their bullpen with the additions of closer Corey Knebel and veteran setup men Jeurys Familia and Brad Hand, who both have experience as closers. Jose Alvarado, Connor Brogdon and Sam Coonrod also return. If Dominguez can continue to get back to where he was pre-surgery, he could be as good as anyone in the group.
“This means a lot to me because now I feel more confident,” he said after Tuesday’s perfect inning. “But no matter what happened today, it just happened. Now I have to be ready for next time.”
The Phillies beat the Tigers, 7-2. Infielder Johan Camargo had a three-run double. The switch-hitter figures to be an important guy off the Phillies’ bench and could even push to be a regular. He started 105 games for Atlanta at third base in 2018.
Nick Castellanos’ signing is official. To make room on the roster, the Phillies designated infielder/outfielder Luke Williams for assignment.
The Phils avoided arbitration with Alvarado and Rhys Hoskins. Alvarado will make $1.9 million in 2022, Hoskins $7.7 million. Pitcher Zach Eflin is the team’s lone remaining arbitration-eligible player.
The Phillies optioned pitcher Hans Crouse and catcher Rafael Marchan to the minor leagues. Outfielder Johan Rohas was reassigned to the minor leagues.
The Phillies host the Blue Jays on Wednesday. Lefty Cristopher Sanchez is scheduled to start.
Subscribe to Phillies Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | Watch on YouTube