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Shattered bats? Must mean Seranthony is close

Believing he'll be ready for Opening Day, Domínguez (right elbow) could appear in Grapefruit League next week
@ToddZolecki
March 1, 2020

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Seranthony Domínguez's fastball hit 94 mph Sunday, and based on what happened to a couple of the bats used against him in a simulated game at Carpenter Complex, the ball moved. They could be encouraging signs for somebody that could make or break the Phillies bullpen this

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Seranthony Domínguez's fastball hit 94 mph Sunday, and based on what happened to a couple of the bats used against him in a simulated game at Carpenter Complex, the ball moved.

They could be encouraging signs for somebody that could make or break the Phillies bullpen this season.

“I saw a bat almost thrown over the backstop,” Phillies right-hander Jake Arrieta said, highlighting Domínguez’s outing. “I saw a shattered bat.”

Domínguez routinely enjoyed moments like that as a rookie in 2018, when he pitched like an elite closer. He struck out 74 and walked 22 in 58 innings. He ranked among the top seven percent of pitchers in strikeout rate (33.0 percent), top four percent in xBA (.184) and xSLG (.286) and the top one percent in wOBA (.227), according to Statcast. His four-seam fastball averaged 98 mph. His slider proved to be nearly unhittable; opponents batted just .066 against it.

Then last season, he left a game on June 5 with an injured ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He never returned. Miraculously, he avoided Tommy John surgery. Slowly, he has worked himself back into shape.

Sunday represented another step to making the Opening Day roster: It was his first time pitching in a game setting since the injury.

“You know, I thought it looked pretty good,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “I think it's the best that I've seen him look since throwing bullpens. I think he got up to 94 mph. Threw some good sliders. Threw a good changeup. So I was happy with it. I wasn't sure what to expect.”

Domínguez’s fastball averaged 97.3 mph last season, so is his velocity OK?

“I think it's fairly normal for relievers to be lower in the beginning of Spring Training,” Girardi said.

In other words, the Phillies hope Domínguez’s velocity will continue to increase as he builds arm strength. Regardless, both Girardi and Domínguez agree that they expect him to be in the bullpen on Opening Day.

“I think so, yeah,” the manager said. “I do.”

“I think I’m going to be ready,” Domínguez said. “I feel like I let it go as hard as I can. I don’t know about the velo right now. I just think about being ahead in the count, controlling all my pitches and being ready for the season.”

Domínguez faced four hitters Sunday, throwing 13 pitches. T.J. Rivera, who has 344 plate appearances in the big leagues, snapped his bat on a 0-1 sinker. The ball rolled weakly to shortstop.

“That’s a good sign,” Domínguez said. “I threw the two-seam fastball and it got sink at the end. It was very good.”

The Phillies selected Kendall Simmons in the sixth round of the 2018 Draft. He led the New York-Penn League last season with a .520 slugging percentage. He swung through a 1-2 slider and launched the bat almost to the top of the backstop along the third-base line. The Phillies selected Dalton Guthrie in the sixth round in '17. He singled on a first-pitch fastball. Simon Muzzioti, the organization’s No. 11 prospect in '19, according to MLB Pipeline, followed. He swung and missed a 2-2 changeup to end the inning.

Domínguez said he liked his slider. “It feels pretty good,” he said. “You saw what happened today.” He liked his changeup, which he threw only 6.4 percent of the time in 2018.

Maybe he throws a few more this season.

“I’m working on it,” he said. “If I feel like I can control it more than I have before then I will. Anything that I think can help me.”

The next step for Domínguez -- other than staying healthy -- is pitching in a Grapefruit League game. He said it could happen next week. It should leave him enough time to pitch the necessary innings to be ready for Opening Day. If he is ready, Domínguez and Héctor Neris could form an effective 1-2 punch in the back of the bullpen.

“I feel really good,” Domínguez said. “I just need to keep going, keep working out, keep facing batters. I need to be in a game to see what happens. I feel like I’m throwing the ball good. To me, it looks good.”

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