How the Phillies plan to help Seranthony Dominguez work through command issues

How the Phillies plan to help Seranthony Dominguez work through command issues originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

CINCINNATI – When one of a team’s more dependable relievers comes into a game and throws two pitches to the backstop against the first hitter he faces, that’s not a good sign.

Sure enough, Seranthony Dominguez did that in the sixth Wednesday night and went on to give up four runs against the Reds at Great American Ball Park, helping cost the Phillies the game. Rob Thomson diagnosed the issue as Not Throwing Enough Strikes Syndrome and, before Thursday’s series finale, expounded on possible causes and potential cures.

“He’s working on tuning up his slider, so I don’t know whether that’s bleeding into his thinking too much about his mechanics, how he’s gripping the ball, whatever,” the manager said. “I think it’s more just confidence right now. Putting your thoughts on auto pilot and just going out to compete.”

The prescription at the moment is to be patient while Dominguez works through the issue, although ideally not in situations when the game is on the line. That’s made easier because, Thomson said, he’s ready to move righthander Orion Kerkering into more high leverage situations.

“Whenever a guy has an outing like (Dominguez did Wednesday night) you try to get him something where he can get some confidence back, because you don’t know how he’s going to react to it,” he said.

The numbers back up the theory that lack of command has been the biggest problem for Dominguez, who was dominant in 2022 but is now carrying a 9.72 ERA.

For the season, he’s thrown 60.7 percent of his pitches for strikes. But that number is down dramatically in his last four appearances (53.3 percent) and his ERA in that span is 13.50. In his first six games he threw 66.7 percent of his pitches for strikes. Also, for his career, he’s thrown 58.4 percent first pitch strikes. This season that’s down to 45 percent.

Dominguez’s thoughts on his struggles are unknown. He did not make himself available to the media after Wednesday night’s game or before Thursday’s game.

Bryce returns, Clemens back to AAA

As expected, Kody Clemens was optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley when Bryce Harper was activated from the paternity list. He got into only one game during his call-up, but took advantage with a double and a 3-run homer in Monday’s start. “He’s a big league player,” Rob Thomson said. “Right now it’s not a fit. But he can hit. He can play a bunch of positions in the infield. We’re going to play him a little bit more in the outfield (with the IronPigs).”

Turnbull or Taijuan?

Thomson still hasn’t spoken to righthander Spencer Turnbull about his role moving forward, even though Taijuan Walker’s return to the rotation Sunday in San Diego almost certainly means he’ll be moved to the bullpen despite a 1.33 ERA in five starts.

Spencer Turnbull made the point after giving up one run in five innings while striking out eight Wednesday that he feels great and doesn’t think the Phillies should be concerned about his workload moving forward just because he was limited by injuries the last three years. Thomson promised there is no hard cap in terms of innings pitched.

“I’ve never really thought of a number because I trust what the trainers and strength and conditioning guys measure,” he said. “Spin rates and velocity and extension and arm angle and things like that are indicators of whether a guy’s getting tired or if he’s about to be possibly injured.”

The Phillies continue the current road trip with as weekend series in San Diego followed by three games against the Angels in Anaheim. Matchups for Petco Park: RHP Aaron Nola (3-1, 3.16) vs. RHP Joe Musgrove (3-2, 5.74) Friday at 9:40 p.m., LHP Ranger Suarez (4-0, 1.36) vs. RHP Dylan Cease (3-1, 1.82) Saturday at 8:40 p.m. and Walker, making his first start of the season, vs. RHP Michael King (2-2, 4.11) Sunday at 4:10 p.m.

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