Phillies

Sources: Phillies reliever Seranthony Dominguez suffers setback in recovery from elbow injury

Sources: Phillies reliever Seranthony Dominguez suffers setback in recovery from elbow injury

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Losing hard-throwing reliever Seranthony Dominguez was a huge blow to the Phillies last season and now there is fear his absence will extend into the new season, which begins in just 15 days.

Dominguez, according to sources, has experienced a setback in his recovery from an elbow strain that kept him on the sidelines for four months last season.

Over the last week, Dominguez has pitched twice in Grapefruit League games. The setback apparently occurred on Sunday when he pitched an inning against the Toronto Blue Jays. Dominguez struck out two batters and hit 95 mph on the stadium radar gun in that game.

The severity of Dominguez’ setback is still being determined. Wednesday is an off day in Phillies camp and more information on the pitcher’s condition is expected later in the week. Given Dominguez’ history, it’s difficult to envision him being part of the opening day bullpen and reasonable to wonder if his absence could be lengthy.

A starting pitcher in the minors, Dominguez rocketed his way to the majors after converting to the bullpen in spring training 2018. As a rookie that season, he appeared in 53 games, often as manager Gabe Kapler’s favorite high-leverage weapon, struck out 11.5 batters per nine innings and recorded a 2.95 ERA and 0.931 WHIP.

By the start of 2019, Dominguez had emerged as a major building block for the team, a power arm capable of getting big outs with the game on the line. But Dominguez was not the same pitcher in 2019. His fastball velocity suffered a slight decline and he had trouble duplicating his success from the previous year. He allowed 8.8 hits per nine innings, up from 5 the previous season, and his WHIP was 1.459 when his season ended June 5 in San Diego after his 27th appearance.

That proved to be a disastrous series for the Phillies. They also lost leadoff man Andrew McCutchen to a torn ACL in that series. That injury will also affect the new season as McCutchen will open on the injured list.

After returning to Philadelphia from San Diego, Dominguez was diagnosed with a strained ulnar collateral ligament. General manager Matt Klentak was quite open in discussing the possibility that Dominguez would need Tommy John surgery and require more than a year of recovery. Even Dominguez admitted that he would need a “miracle” to avoid surgery. 

Dominguez appeared to get his miracle when he visited with superstar orthopedic surgeon James Andrews for a second opinion. Andrews recommended a conservative recovery. Dominguez was treated with a PRP injection and rest and rehab was prescribed.

By August, Dominguez was doing some light throwing again. Late in the month, he experienced more pain in the elbow, but still not enough that the experts recommended surgery.

Throughout the winter, Dominguez continued his recovery and the reports were good. At the start of spring training, the big challenge was slowing Dominguez down because he was feeling so good in bullpen workouts. But the intensity of a pitcher’s work and the stress on his arm increases in game action and now, after just two Grapefruit League appearances, there is concern once again for the 25-year-old right-hander.

The Phillies’ bullpen was riddled with injuries last season. In addition to Dominguez, Adam Morgan, David Robertson, Tommy Hunter and Victor Arano all went down. Management was hopeful that the majority of these relievers would come back as healthy difference-makers in 2020 and Dominguez was at the top of that list. Of the group, only Morgan projects as a sure bet for opening day. Arano and Hunter should not be far behind. Robertson, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, hopes to return during the second half of the season. 

Dominguez’ situation creates even more uncertainty in an already an unclear bullpen picture as opening day speeds toward us.

The Phillies will carry eight relievers. There appears to be four locks in Hector Neris (closer), Morgan, Jose Alvarez and Francisco Liriano. Two from the trio of Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta and Ranger Suarez could end up in the bullpen while one works in the starting rotation. That leaves two spots. Arano could be a possibility if he’s far enough along in his recovery from elbow surgery. Edgar Garcia, Deolis Guerra and Reggie McClain, all on the 40-man roster, are possibilities, as are non-roster candidates Bud Norris, Anthony Swarzak, Blake Parker and Drew Storen.

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What Alec Bohm's arrival means for struggling Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery

What Alec Bohm's arrival means for struggling Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery

Alec Bohm is here and he's going to play. 

The Phillies didn't call up Bohm, their top offensive prospect, to get him a few at-bats here and there. He'll be a regular in the lineup, Phillies GM Matt Klentak said Thursday shortly after Bohm was added to the roster.

Bohm will mainly play third base, where he was Thursday in his debut against the Orioles. When Bohm is at third, it will shift Jean Segura to second base, where he played last season. Scott Kingery will again be a utility player. Kingery could see some time in center field with Adam Haseley (wrist sprain) placed on the 10-day IL Thursday. That was the corresponding move to make room for Bohm on the active roster.

"The plan is that he's going to play regularly," Klentak said. "That's been the case for a while now. If we're going to call up a player like Alec, we want him to play every day. With Adam Haseley going on the IL today, that opens up some regular reps for us. Obviously, it'll be up to Joe (Girardi) to write out the lineup every day. But I think what you're going to see today is pretty indicative of what the next week or so will be like. Alec will play quite a bit at third. Segura will move over and play some second. 

"Kingery now will help us in a variety of different spots, but notably, he may need to take down some reps in center field. ... We still view Scott as an everyday player. Whether that’s at second base or some other position, but right now given his offensive struggles, given Bohm coming up, and given the need for an extra capable defender in center field, I think this makes sense for the team right now.

"We want Alec to play regularly. We think he's that kind of player. It really highlights the importance of guys like Segura and Kingery being able to play multiple positions. You can have an injury to a left-handed hitting outfielder and call up a right-handed hitting infielder and the pieces can still work."

Bohm can also play first base. With the early-season struggles of Rhys Hoskins, Kingery and Segura, there are multiple lineup combinations which include Bohm that might be able to give the Phillies a boost.

Hoskins, Kingery and Segura have hit a combined .165 this season (20 for 121). Their lack of offense is the major reason Bohm is here now. The extra infield bat certainly puts some pressure on Hoskins and Kingery to perform. Teams don't have time to wait out prolonged slumps in a 60-game season. Friday will be the Phils' quarter-pole of the season.

Hoskins has hit .190 this season with one RBI. He has not homered in his last 109 plate appearances dating back to last season. The walks are nice and the source of his .404 on-base percentage but the Phillies need Hoskins to do more than walk. They need him to hit for power. And they need Kingery to catch up to fastballs. Against fastballs 93 mph or harder this season, Kingery is 0 for 9 and has swung-and-missed more than one-third of the time.

Hoskins and Kingery were both out of Thursday's lineup. Neil Walker started at first base with Segura at second.

"He's a hitter," Klentak said of Bohm. "We think he can help our lineup. Our lineup thus far — and I'm mindful of the fact that we're only 13 games in and even those 13 games have been somewhat disjointed — has had several players really off to fast starts from the very beginning and others that have struggled. Adding another quality bat into that mix can only help us. That's the way we're looking at it."

Bohm ends up debuting before ever playing a game at Triple A. Had there been a minor-league season, it's where he would have opened.

"This guy has done everything he can do in the batter's box at the minor-league level," Klentak said. "It's not his fault that there was no official Triple A season this year. But he's done everything he can. He's really worked very hard on his defense. That's come a long way for him in the last year and a half. On top of that, he's also added the versatility of being able to slide over to first base, which we won't see tonight, but we could see that at some point this year too. 

"As much as anything, we think he's earned it. Now that our roster allows for him to come up and play every day, we think it's a good opportunity for him."

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Phillies lineup: Alec Bohm debuts, bats 6th

Phillies lineup: Alec Bohm debuts, bats 6th

Alec Bohm bats sixth and plays third base in his MLB debut this afternoon.

The Phils promoted Bohm, their top position player prospect, ahead of Thursday's series finale against the Orioles. Adam Haseley was placed on the 10-day injured list with a wrist sprain to make room for Bohm on the 28-man roster.

Rhys Hoskins, who grounded into three double plays Wednesday and is hitting .190 with one RBI on the season, sits. So does Scott Kingery, who is 4 for 40. 

Neil Walker is at first base and Jean Segura is at second.

1. Andrew McCutchen, DH
2. Jean Segura, 2B
3. Bryce Harper, RF
4. J.T. Realmuto, C
5. Didi Gregorius, SS
6. Alec Bohm, 3B
7. Jay Bruce, LF
8. Neil Walker, 1B
9. Roman Quinn, CF

Jake Arrieta, SP

Right-hander Tom Eshelman, the Phillies' 2017 minor-league pitcher of the year, starts for Baltimore.

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