Earlier this month, we wondered if Seranthony Dominguez is under more pressure than any Philadelphia Phillies player in 2020. If he is, Dominguez is apparently eager to thrive under high expectations.
Bryan Price – who will take over as the Phillies pitching coach in 2020 – says that after a lost season a year ago, Dominguez can hardly contain his excitement for the upcoming season.
“He is throwing,” Price said to Matt Gelb of The Athletic. “As a matter of fact, he was chomping at the bit to get going. But he’s on a throwing protocol set up by our training staff with some oversight from myself, [assistant pitching coach] Dave Lundquist and [bullpen coach] Jim [Gott]. We had to kind of back him down a little bit because he was really chomping at the bit to be throwing – longer distances, closer to getting to the mound, etc. He’s throwing. I’m confident that he’s going to be ready. But he’s not going to be fast-tracked. He doesn’t necessarily need four weeks of pitching in games.”
General manager Matt Klentak has been open in discussing this offseason how the Phillies were crushed with injuries – specifically in the bullpen – in 2019. However, while Victor Arano and Adam Morgan will return, two of the pieces they Phillies were counting on a year ago that got injured were Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, who are no longer employed by the team. David Robertson will make $11 million in 2020, but after having Tommy John surgery last August, he’ll be hard pressed to pitch at all this season.
So, by not making any notable additions to the bullpen, the Phillies are banking on a return – and major step forward – from Dominguez.
In 27 games in 2019, Dominguez posted a 4.01 ERA and 4.02 FIP. He exited an appearance in San Diego on June 5 with what turned out to be a UCL injury. He didn’t return the rest of the season, which is troubling when you consider how early in the season that was. The series that Dominguez got hurt in was the same one that Andrew McCutchen suffered a season-ending ACL tear and Jay Bruce made his Phillies debut – it wasn’t like it was in the waning weeks of the season.
The Phillies initially feared the Dominguez would need Tommy John surgery, which would have ended his 2019 season and potentially cut into 2020. Instead, Dr. James Andrews, the country’s most renowned sports orthopedic surgeon, determined that surgery wasn’t necessary and instead gave him a platelet-rich plasma injection that left him with a four-to-six week timeline on resuming his throwing program.
However, in late August, Dominguez was re-examined after feeling “some soreness” in a throwing session. Again, it was determined that Dominguez didn’t need Tommy John surgery, with Dr. Michael Ciccotti, the team physician, examining Dominguez.
After the examination, Dominguez resumed his throwing program. He didn’t return for a Phillies team that finished at a disappointing 81-81 mark, but Klentak said at November’s general manager’s meetings that Dominguez was able to throw all of his pitches “pain free” before being shut down for the offseason. At that time, Klentak noted that Dominguez’s offseason routine wasn’t expected to be altered in any way and that the expectation was he would be good to go for Spring Training.
From what Price says, you get the sense that the Phillies still feel like Dominguez – who posted a 2.95 ERA in 53 games in 2018 – is in a good place as Spring Training looms. His health in Clearwater will only be the first of many tests. If he isn’t able to stay healthy throughout the entirety of the 2020 season – and perhaps even if he is – there will be quite a bit of second guessing the team’s decision not to more aggressively pursue Dellin Betances and/or Blake Treinen in free agency.
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