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How Phils' 'pen can reach potential in '20

@ToddZolecki
February 12, 2020

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- There is going to be a lot of talk this spring about how the Phillies' bullpen will be OK, even good, if their best relievers are healthy. It is a big if. It starts with Seranthony Domínguez, who has the talent in his right arm to be

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- There is going to be a lot of talk this spring about how the Phillies' bullpen will be OK, even good, if their best relievers are healthy.

It is a big if.

It starts with Seranthony Domínguez, who has the talent in his right arm to be a dominant setup man or closer. It includes Victor Arano, Tommy Hunter, Adam Morgan and David Robertson. The Phillies expected each of them to play a significant role in 2019; instead, they threw a combined 71 innings because of elbow injuries. The club seems somewhat optimistic that at least two of them can be ready by Opening Day.

Domínguez said last summer that he needed a miracle to avoid surgery. He did. Domínguez started throwing Dec. 1., and said he has felt no pain. The right-hander threw three bullpen sessions before camp. It sounds promising, but can he be ready by Opening Day?

“It depends on what they think about me,” Domínguez said.

What does he think?

“I feel that I’m good,” Domínguez said. “I feel that I’m ready.”

Morgan said he is on a normal routine and fully expects to be ready by Opening Day. Arano experienced some right shoulder soreness in December, so he is behind schedule. He could throw off a mound within three weeks. Hunter is taking things slowly, but he said he is optimistic he can be ready by Opening Day.

“There is a throwing program,” Hunter said. “I haven't even gone over it with them. But, man, I've had three or four different throwing programs that have said three or four different things. We'll play it by ear. Everybody is different, everybody heals at a different rate. Personally, I'm going to shoot for it.”

Robertson had Tommy John surgery in August. The Phillies could place him on the 60-day injured list to make room for Hunter on the 40-man roster. Robertson said he is optimistic he can pitch again this season, but it typically takes at least 12 months to return from Tommy John. Robertson hopes to beat that timeline.

It would be gravy for the Phillies if he did.

“I feel good, I want to keep going, I want to push it,” Robertson said. “But they’re slowing me down. Not in a bad way, in a good way. They’re protecting me. Whenever I’m ready, I think they’re going to let me loose. So I’m going to try to continue on the path that I’ve been given and everything that they’ve got for me and hope that everything works out great and I can get back at some point a lot earlier in the season than expected.”

Both sides of tainted Astros title

Robertson pitched for the Yankees in the 2017 American League Championship Series, when they lost in seven games to the Astros. Left-hander Francisco Liriano, who is in Phillies camp as a non-roster invitee, pitched for Houston.

Robertson allowed four hits and four runs and did not retire a batter in a 7-1 loss to the Astros in Game 6 at Minute Maid Park. The revelations about the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal has upset many Yankees players, including Robertson.

“I felt like in that game I threw as well as I’ve ever thrown in my entire life,” Robertson said. “I had some pitches that got hit that I was a little shocked by and some pitches that didn’t get swung at that I was a little shocked by. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about what we know now. But it all comes together now and, you know, I’m upset about it, that’s for sure.

“It’s a disgrace what they’ve done, and they’re going to have to live with it and everyone now knows. …. I’m never going to get 2017 back. I can’t say moving forward I’ll never get to pitch in a LCS again, but I’ll never get that season back with that group of guys and that opportunity to win a World Series. Like I said, I’m still upset about it. I don’t want to say something I’m going to regret, but I’m definitely not happy about it.”

Liriano said he had no knowledge of his coaches and teammates using cameras and video to steal signs from teams.

Does he feel the same pride in his World Series ring?

“It’s hard to say,” Liriano said. “Because you don’t want to be the team that was cheating to win the World Series. It’s hard for me to say what my feelings are. It’s hard, it’s hard. I don’t know.”

Injury updates

Catcher Andrew Knapp tweaked his left rib cage while hitting on Wednesday. The preliminary report is that he is OK, but he will be checked out on Thursday. The Phillies hope Enyel De Los Santos will throw off a mound in three weeks, after the right-hander pulled his hamstring in late January.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .