Dominguez closed out the sixth inning of Friday's loss to the Rockies, striking out the only batter he faced. Dominguez now has eight appearances on the season but has yet to be used in a true save opportunity -- his only blown save came in the eighth inning. That's been a function of game flow and bullpen strategy as much as anything, as the Phillies have had few save chances and have elected to use their top relievers in high-leverage situations throughout the game. Dominguez's 34.5 percent strikeout rate means he's still offering something in deep leagues, but he's yet to have an appearance longer than one inning, limiting his appeal.
Dominguez threw a scoreless sixth inning Monday against the Nationals, striking out one batter and not allowing a single baserunner. Most assumed the primary option for saves in Philadelphia would be either Dominguez or David Robertson, but it's been Hector Neris and Pat Neshek who have picked up the team's first two saves this season. Dominguez's usage in the sixth inning doesn't appear to be a demotion for his early struggles, however, as it was still a high-leverage appearance, with the game tied and the top of the Nationals' order due up. Expect Dominguez to continue to be used in high-leverage spots going forward, only picking up saves when those spots happen to come in the ninth inning. Encouragingly, his fastball velocity averaged 98.2 mph Tuesday, a tick up from where it had been in his first three appearances of the season and in line with where he sat last year.
Dominguez's velocity is down through his first two outings of the season, Matt Gelb of The Athletic Philadelphia reports. Dominguez's fastball averaged 98.6 mph in 2018 but has averaged 97.1 mph so far this season. He didn't throw a pitch harder than 97.9 mph in his latest appearance Wednesday, his slowest max speed in any of his 55 career outings. He's bumped up his slider percentage from 27.0 percent to 36.2 percent to compensate. The 24-year-old still throws hard, and velocity is often down for many pitchers early in the season, but the drop remains at least moderately worrisome.
Dominguez was charged with a blown save against the Nationals after allowing two runs (one earned) on two hits during the eighth inning Wednesday. He recorded two strikeouts and did not walk a batter. Dominguez may have been working in a setup role but nonetheless gets the blown save as he was unable to hold a two-run lead during the eighth inning. David Robertson's early-season struggles continued; he entered with the game tied during the ninth and gave up a hit and three walks, including a bases-loaded walk to end the game. Robertson's issues could lead to increased ninth-inning chances for Dominguez, but he should continue to be a high-leverage option for the Phillies, regardless.
Dominguez has allowed just one run in 5.1 innings so far this spring, striking out five while walking one. Dominguez's role for the upcoming season remains unclear. The 24-year-old led the Phillies in saves last season with 16, but the team brought in David Robertson over the offseason. The Phillies reportedly want to use Robertson in a versatile, high-leverage role, in line with manager Gabe Kapler's progressive approach. Dominguez also fits that role well, as his recent experience as a starter enables him to work longer outings. It's possible that the saves will go to whomever happens to still be available in the ninth inning. A clearer picture of the late-inning breakdown may not emerge until the season gets underway.