On June 17th, Philadelphia Phillies right handed relief pitcher Seranthony Dominguez was placed on the 15-day injured list with a left oblique strain. Dominguez has not had the best year so far in 2023, holding a 4.33 ERA, however, he is still their number one right handed option out of the bullpen. So, how has manager Rob Thomson utilized his bullpen with the absences of Dominguez?
For starters, it's important to note Craig Kimbrel's excellence. Kimbrel was signed in the offseason to be another option for Thomson out of the bullpen. Instead, because of his great performance, Kimbrel has been used as the closer. This goes against what the Phillies had done in 2022 as Thomson would play matchups through the latter half of each game. With Kimbrel solidified for the end of the game, Dominguez could be used for tough right handed hitters in the middle to late innings before reaching the pivotal ninth.
With Dominguez out and Kimbrel as the closer, the right handed options are limited. The Phillies have no shortage of left handed options. Jose Alvarado and Gregory Soto have been excellent in 2023. Matt Strahm is also another left handed option Thomson can turn to. Andrew Vazquez has been a pleasant surprise and leads Phillies relievers in WAR.
The right handed options are not giving the same production. With Dominguez out the two right handed options have been Jeff Hoffman and Yunior Marte.
Hoffman has faired nicely in his first season in Philadelphia. Hoffman has a 3.31 ERA and 1.286 WHIP in 16.1 innings pitched in 2023. He has given up an earned run in only three of 15 apperances. Hoffman has been a surprising yet steady right handed option for the Phillies.
Yunior Marte has been up and down multiple times so far in 2023. When Dominguez was placed on the injured list, Marte was brought up once again to the major league club.
Since Marte's promotion and the Dominguez injury, Thomson has leaned on Marte the most out of any right handed relief pitching option. Marte has shown flashes of being a great option for the Phillies, but has still not shown the consistency to be relied on in the high leverage situations he currently is being used in.
Marte has given up just one earned run in his four appearances since returning to the big league team. His ERA is just under 7 and his WAR is -0.7. While Marte could be a good option out of the bullpen if he continues to build up consistency, he is not at the level to be taking on the high leverage situations that Dominguez usually takes on. With Dominguez out, he has been forced into this role.
Do the Phillies have bullpen help coming from the minors?
What is interesting about the right handed relief situation for the Phillies is that there are two great options with high leverage experience currently sitting in Lehigh Valley.
Andrew Bellatti and Connor Brogdon both are currently pitching for the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. Both pitchers were used throughout the 2022 postseason in high leverage situations and did fantastic jobs. In 2023, they both started out slow in the Major Leagues and were sent down to the minors.
In 15 appearances with the Phillies in 2023, Bellatti had a 5.68 ERA and he was then sent down on May 23. For the Iron Pigs, Bellatti has been pitching like a player who belongs at a higher level. In 11 appearances he has a 1.64 ERA. Bellatti is definitely a solid option for the Phillies to use right now with Dominguez still out.
Connor Brogdon was optioned on June 9th when Jose Alvarado was activated off the injured list. In the 2022 postseason Brogdon was tremendous, holding a 2.08 ERA. In 2023, he earned a 4.03 ERA before being optioned. In the minor leagues opponents are hitting just .100 against Brogdon.
With Dominguez still out, Bellatti and Brogdon definitely could be used if needed. They are proven pitchers who are succeeding in triple-A this season.
What has been the most crucial part of the Phillies in June has been starting pitching. Because of the success of the starting pitching this month, the bullpen has been relied on less, allowing the loss of Dominguez to leave not as large of a hole as it could have just weeks ago. The Phillies top four of Wheeler, Nola, Suarez, and Walker have all been helping the team win games as of late. Even Christopher Sanchez out of the five spot has had some success.
The Phillies would love to have Seranthony Dominguez back as soon as possible, however, they certainly have the options to hold down his absence.