CLEARWATER, Fla. - Seranthony Dominguez’ velocity was still a few ticks from off, but the reliever said Thursday’s Grapefruit League debut was enough for him to know his status for opening day.
“I feel ready now,” Dominguez said. “I feel ready right now.”
Dominguez faced three batters in the seventh inning, which was his first game action since June. He pitched on Sunday in a simulated game against Phillies batters, but he had not been in a game since being shut down with an elbow injury. He induced a double play after a batter reached on a throwing error and ended the inning with a fly out.
“Really pleased with it,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Ninety-five-plus [mph] today. The ball’s coming out really well. I told you I wasn’t sure what to expect when he came back. Both outings have been good. I think they’re encouraging.”
Last season, Dominguez threw with an average velocity of 97.80 and maxed out at 99.51. His fastball sat Thursday around 95 mph and was 94 mph in the simulated game. The season is still three weeks away, leaving time for Dominguez to build arm strength.
“Honestly, I feel great,” Dominguez said. “Right now, it doesn't matter what it is. I know the pitcher I can be. I know the pitcher I am now. I know I’ll be ready for the season. And hopefully the velocity comes, because I’m going to need it sometimes. But I feel great where I am right now.”
A healthy Dominguez will have a key role in the team’s eight-man bullpen, which is still waiting for half of the jobs to be claimed. In 2018 as a rookie, Dominguez had a 2.95 ERA in 58 innings, with 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings. As long as his elbow does not flare up, Dominguez will be one of Girardi’s primary options for high-leverage innings.
Spencer Howard faced batters Thursday morning, when he pitched live batting practice at the Carpenter Complex. The team’s top pitching prospect is being brought along slowly this spring because of an innings limit and an early-camp knee injury that proved to be just a scare. The Phillies have yet to outline their plan this season for Howard, who combined to throw just 99 1/3 innings last year.
“It’s been talked about a lot. We have not had a chance to sit down and speak to him,” Girardi said. “It’s not completely ironed out. It’s something that we are discussing as we move along. I know it’s something we won’t share with everyone -- our plan. But I think when you start talking about Spencer Howard, we’re all excited about Spencer. He is a big-time talent. The thing is, we want him around 10 years from now, too. You have to be really smart with how you handle it.”
Didi Gregorius went 0-for-3 on Thursday and has yet to get a hit this spring through 18 at-bats. He’s reached base just once, via a walk.
“He’s saving all his hits for the season," Girardi said. I told him, 'Don’t waste any.’ He’s just out front a little. It’s just timing.”
Gregorius will be the team’s shortstop on March 26, no matter what happens in Clearwater, but he would like to snap his slump before camp ends.
“I've been there,” Girardi said. “I used to get two hits the first day and two the last. There was nothing in between. I just think he's just not wasting any.”