Seranthony Domínguez feeling ‘optimistic’ after a series of strong outings

Philadelphia Phillies

DENVER — Caleb Cotham was watching Seranthony Domínguez pitch the seventh inning of Saturday’s game against the Rockies when he saw something that piqued his interest. There was a runner on second base and no outs. Jacob Stallings — a hitter who typically doesn’t chase much — was at the plate and had worked Domínguez to a 3-2 count.

The right-handed reliever dotted a four-seam fastball right at the bottom corner of the zone for strike three. It looked like the Seranthony Domínguez of old.

“That gets me going,” Cotham, the Phillies pitching coach, said of the pitch.

Next up, Domínguez faced Rockies first baseman Hunter Goodman. After pumping 97-98 mph fastballs to Stallings, Domínguez began throwing 87-88 mph sliders. He threw six pitches to Goodman — five of them sliders — as Goodman grounded out. Cotham saw it as a sign that Domínguez was feeling confident.

“He threw him five or six sliders and just took care of him,” Cotham said. “That’s not something he’s done this year, and it’s getting to be more and more of a strength of his. I’m just going to throw this, if the hitter doesn’t react, well, I’m going to stay with that until he tells me something that I need to change.”

It has been a frustrating few months for the right-handed reliever, but both he and Cotham are optimistic that he is getting closer to where he needs to be. In his last seven games entering Sunday, Domínguez had a 1.35 ERA with five strikeouts and four walks. Many of those outings have been lower leverage, but his outing on Saturday was not. Domínguez was tasked with keeping the game at a one-run deficit, and he did that en route to an 8-4 Phillies win.

“I think he’s really, really close to being … he’s capable of being the best in baseball,” Cotham said. “And he’s pitching better and better. He’s pitching freer. There’s just a feeling a little more in the last handful of outings, where that just feels like the guy.”

Domínguez said he has been making a lot of adjustments. He didn’t want to get into specifics, but many of them pertain to his control/command, and the movement on his slider. They’d like the slider to have more bite. It has been looking more normal of late.

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“The slider feels like it has better break, more consistency,” Domínguez said. “It’s getting more swing and miss.”

He is also working on his mindset. Domínguez has a tendency to overthink when he’s pitching, which is something he is trying to avoid.

“You’re kind of blueprinting — it’s not directly to Ser — but when I’m pitching well, I’m usually not thinking a lot,” Cotham said. “When I’m not pitching well, I’m usually thinking a lot. Doing the thinking, in a way, out of competition. That’s kind of what he’s been doing.

“Do you know your blueprint for your setup? Your first move, your lift. If that’s good, your delivery is good. It’s more nailing the basics of where you are relative to the rubber, how you lift, which are the things, at the end of the day, that you have control over.

“It’s finding what makes you you. The tough thing and the cool thing is that it changes over time. What happened in 2019 might not work now, because your body is different, your pitches are different, the baseballs are different, the hitters are different. So it’s always an evolution.”

It’s hasn’t been easy, but Domínguez is eager to figure something out. He has a 6.35 ERA this year with a 9% walk rate and a 21.8% strikeout rate.

“There are a lot of adjustments right now, but I’m trying to find the one that might click,” Domínguez said. “It’s difficult, but you do what you’ve got to do to get better.”

Extra bases

Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña suffered an injury while running the bases on Sunday afternoon. The Braves said the initial diagnosis was left knee soreness, but they will do a more thorough evaluation on Acuña on Monday. … Taijuan Walker (3-0, 5.06 ERA) will start on Monday in San Francisco against LHP Blake Snell (0-3, 11.40). Zack Wheeler will start Tuesday against a Giants starter who hasn’t been announced and Cristopher Sánchez will start Wednesday against LHP Kyle Harrison.

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