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Phillies recall reliever Seranthony Domínguez to pitch in season finale

The hard-throwing reliever hasn't appeared in a major-league game since June 2019 after an elbow injury and a protracted attempt to come back led to Tommy John surgery.

The Phillies called up reliever Seranthony Dominguez to pitch in Sunday's season finale.
The Phillies called up reliever Seranthony Dominguez to pitch in Sunday's season finale.Read moreJOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer

MIAMI -- Seranthony Domínguez was driving home from a triple A game Friday night in Allentown when his phone rang.

The Phillies were calling him up.

“I was really happy,” the hard-throwing reliever said Saturday. “I’m happy to be back. I know maybe I can’t help this year, but I’m here.”

The Phillies recalled Domínguez and placed reliever Connor Brogdon back on the injured list with a right groin strain that has not yet healed. Domínguez will pitch here Sunday in the Phillies’ season finale against the Miami Marlins, according to manager Joe Girardi, completing a 14-month comeback from Tommy John elbow surgery.

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Domínguez spent the last two months in the minors, initially on a rehab assignment and then with triple-A Lehigh Valley. And although his elbow held up to the rigors of pitching again, it took a while for him to re-learn everything else.

When Domínguez began his rehab assignment at high-A Jersey Shore, it had been 790 days since his last major-league appearance and 513 since he walked off the mound in spring training of 2020. He laughed when he recounted the feeling of being back on the mound again in a game situation.

“I forgot how to pitch,” he said. “I completely forgot. The way that you step on the mound, you move a little forward or back on the rubber. It takes time. That’s the rehab process.”

Domínguez struggled at the outset, particularly with his command. He gave up 15 hits and six walks in 10 innings over his first 10 appearances. But his last nine appearances have been better. He allowed seven hits and six walks in 10 1/3 innings for the triple-A Iron Pigs, posting a 2.61 ERA.

“Seranthony’s worked really hard to get to this point,” Girardi said. “We think that it’s good for him in what he’s done to be back here.”

Domínguez figures to be in the mix for a spot in the Phillies’ bullpen in spring training. Ian Kennedy, Héctor Neris, and Archie Bradley are eligible for free agency, leaving president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski to shop for late-inning help again this offseason. But Domínguez, Brogdon, lefty José Alvarado, and right-hander Sam Coonrod figure to be back, with lefty JoJo Romero returning at some point from Tommy John surgery.

“I like what we’re raising here and we need to continue to do that,” Girardi said. “We need more. We need to continue to develop more.”

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Domínguez will give the Phillies a sneak peek Sunday. He said his fastball has reached 96-97 mph, still a tick below his 98.1 mph and 97.4 mph averages in 2018 and 2019, respectively, when he came on the scene as a potential future closer.

“The velocity is not like it was before in my first year, but it’s not bad,” Domínguez said. “I feel good. I feel confident. I’ll keep working hard in the offseason, work on my body, get stronger, and keep my mind strong for whenever they need me. I just want to be ready.”

Enough was enough

Zack Wheeler didn’t quarrel with the Phillies’ decision to not have him start Sunday. If anything, he co-signed it.

“I just think he knows there’s some fatigue there,” Girardi said. “He sought advice and he was comfortable [sitting out]. I said, ‘OK, great. I am, too.’ But if he really wanted to pitch, I wouldn’t have held him back. I told him, ‘We want this to come from you and what you think is best.’”

Wheeler will finish the season with 213 1/3 innings pitched, most in the majors and 9.2% more than his previous career high of 195 1/3 in 2019. The Phillies lined him up to start the series finale in case they needed to win to stay alive in the playoff race or clinch the NL East title. Once they were eliminated from contention Thursday night in Atlanta, it didn’t make much sense for him to pitch.

Girardi admitted there’s “concern” about what the innings toll could mean for Wheeler next season. But because he averaged 196 innings in the last three full seasons, the Phillies believe he will be able to handle the residual effect of the workload.

“It kind of surprised me, to be honest, how good I felt this year,” Wheeler said last week. “The game’s changing. We all know that. They rely a lot more on the bullpen these days, so a lot of guys have shorter leashes. You want to go 200 [innings] because that’s what you saw growing up, right? You want to do that. It’s always been my goal.”

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Extra bases

After going 1-for-3 Saturday night, backup catcher Andrew Knapp is batting .156, the lowest average for a Phillies player with at least 150 plate appearances in a season since Don Casey (.152 in 1886). ... Jean Segura (back) missed a second consecutive game but felt “better than he was [Friday],” according to Girardi, who said the second baseman might be able to start Sunday. ... With lefty Jesús Luzardo on the mound for the Marlins, the Phillies stacked the lineup with righties, including Alec Bohm at third base and Matt Vierling in center field. “I want to see them do their thing,” Girardi said. ... The Phillies haven’t named a starter for Sunday, but it will be right-hander Adonis Medina or lefty Bailey Falter.