Will Seranthony Dominguez be ready for Phillies’ opener?

Will Seranthony Dominguez be ready for Phillies’ opener?

CLEARWATER, Fla. – A handful of important Phillies entered this spring training camp looking to rebound from injuries that ended their 2019 seasons.

Three of them were on the same field for a simulated game at the minor-league complex Sunday morning.

Right-hander Jake Arrieta threw 54 pain-free pitches over two-plus innings as he continued his healthy return from a surgical clean-out of his right elbow.

Lefty Adam Morgan also worked a pain-free inning as he continued his healthy return from an elbow strain which prevented him from pitching after July 31.

Though nothing is official, Arrieta lines up to start the third game of the regular season behind Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler.

Morgan will fill a key role in the bullpen.

The Phillies are hoping that Seranthony Dominguez can join Morgan in getting important outs toward the end of games.

Dominguez also pitched in Sunday morning's simulated game. In fact, it was his first time pitching in at least a semi-competitive environment since he walked off the field in San Diego on June 5 with a ligament strain in his right elbow.

Dominguez passed Sunday's 13-pitch test -- he faced four batters, allowed a single and struck out two -- but there will be more to come before his status for opening day is decided.

“I feel really good and I’m happy about that,” Dominguez said. “I feel like I let it go as hard as I can. I don’t know about the velocity right now. I just think about being ahead in the count, controlling all my pitches and being ready for the season.”

Manager Joe Girardi liked what he saw of Dominguez.

"I thought it looked pretty good, the best I've seen since he started throwing bullpens," Girardi said. "He was up to 94 (mph) and threw some good sliders and a good changeup. I was happy with it. I wasn't sure what to expect."

It’s important that Dominguez be able to release the ball with authority, or, as he said, "as hard as I can." Not only does that create velocity, it shows that he trusts his elbow. That’s one of the big hurdles that a pitcher must clear coming back from an elbow injury.

Dominguez strained the ulna collateral ligament in his elbow. At the time of the injury, it was feared he would need Tommy John surgery and the year-plus recovery time that comes with it. But Dominguez visited with top surgeon James Andrews and surgery was not recommended. Dominguez spent the summer and fall months resting and rehabbing. This spring training is as much a test of his health as it is a time to prepare for the season. 

The Phillies did little to upgrade their bullpen in the offseason. Getting Dominguez back healthy and effective is crucial to the team.

Dominguez will continue to work his way toward getting in an official Grapefruit League game. He said he believes he will be ready for opening day, but team officials will be cautious. Two weeks ago, Andrew McCutchen, one of the players whose season was ended by injury year, said it was his plan to be ready for opening day. On Friday, he was ruled out. McCutchen had surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee in June and is still working his way back. The Phillies hope that taking a conservative approach with McCutchen will allow him to have five healthy, impactful months on the active roster.

The next few weeks will determine if the team takes a similar approach with Dominguez.

As for the other Phillies coming back from season-ending injuries: Tommy Hunter (elbow surgery) has been throwing bullpen sessions. He is expected to open on the IL and be ready to go a month or so into the season. David Robertson, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, is on a throwing program. He hopes to pitch during the second half of the season.

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Phillies Talk podcast: MLBPA proposal, Roy Halladay documentary and 2008 Phils magic

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Phillies Talk podcast: MLBPA proposal, Roy Halladay documentary and 2008 Phils magic

Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman react to the MLBPA's latest proposal, the Roy Halladay documentary and recall some of their favorite moments from the Phillies' opening playoff series in 2008.

• Are players and owners closer to a financial resolution?

• It seems like the two sides are having completely separate conversation.

• What's more likely: 82 games or 114?

• Our takeaways from the Roy Halladay documentary.

• Halladay may have ended up coaching with the Phillies.

• 1-on-1 with Cole Hamels about 2008 playoffs.

• Best moments and memories of that 2008 NLDS vs. Brewers.

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Phillies had 2 massive extra advantages in 2008 NLDS vs. Brewers

Phillies had 2 massive extra advantages in 2008 NLDS vs. Brewers

You need a lot to break right to win a championship in any sport but particularly in baseball, where we routinely see the best team fail to win it all. It doesn't matter how you've performed in the preceding six months and 162 games, any team is susceptible to a bad week in October.

The 2008 Phillies were not the favorite to win the World Series when that postseason began. They had won 92 games with a prolific offense. The Cubs won 97, and in the AL, the Red Sox, Rays and Angels all won 95-plus.

The teams with the two best records in baseball that year (Angels at 100-62, Cubs at 97-64), were dispatched quickly in the playoffs, with the Cubs suffering a sweep to the Dodgers in the NLDS and the Angels going down in four games to the Red Sox in the ALDS.

Who knows how much differently the 2008 playoffs would have gone for the Phillies if they drew the Cubs or Dodgers in the NLDS, or the Red Sox instead of the Rays in the World Series. It obviously doesn't matter because reality > hypotheticals, but that 2008 postseason was a good example of timing being everything.

The 2008 Phillies were a better team than the 2008 Brewers, but they also had two huge benefits in that series beyond home-field advantage. Those benefits were the Brewers' top two starting pitchers.

CC Sabathia was the blockbuster trade acquisition in '08. The Brewers acquired him on July 7, three weeks before the deadline, and he dominated for more than two months. In 17 starts with Milwaukee, Sabathia went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. Ridiculously, he pitched seven complete games with three shutouts in those 17 starts.

But by the time the postseason began, Sabathia was spent. His start against the Phillies in Game 2 of the NLDS was his fifth straight start on short rest. Four days earlier, Sabathia had thrown 122 pitches in a complete game.

It was clear pretty early in that game that Sabathia was not the pitcher he was down the stretch, and Phillies fans will never forget the second inning. (We will explore the famous nine-pitch Brett Myers walk and Shane Victorino grand slam in more depth Tuesday.)

The other advantage the Phillies had was that the Brewers' rock that year, Ben Sheets, found out at the end of the regular season that he needed Tommy John surgery and would be unable to pitch in the playoffs. Sheets, who had a 3.24 ERA in 128 starts from 2004-08 and was a four-time All-Star, never ended up making a postseason start. 

Had he been healthy, Sheets would have started Game 1 for the Brewers ahead of Sabathia. Instead, that Game 1 start went to Yovani Gallardo, who had torn his ACL on May 1 and was unable to return until the final week of the regular season. 

Gallardo went on to have a decent 12-year career but he wasn't ready for that big moment in enemy territory in '08. The Phillies scored three runs off of him (unearned because of a Rickie Weeks error), and that was plenty of run support for Cole Hamels.

The Phillies clearly benefitted from the Brewers' starting pitching situation that October, but that doesn't discredit the business they took care of. In the NLDS, Prince Fielder went 1 for 14 (.071). Ryan Braun, who would go on to become a career Phillie-killer, had just an OK series, reaching base in five of 17 plate appearances and going hitless with runners in scoring position until his final at-bat of the series, an RBI single with the Phillies up five runs in their Game 4 clincher.

The Brewers hit just .206/.271/.254 as a team in that series with one home run against the Phils.

The re-airs of the Phillies' entire 2008 playoff run begin tonight on NBC Sports Philadelphia. The NLDS runs this week from Monday-Thursday, followed by the NLCS next week and the World Series the week after.

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