This column should come with a warning. Because we’ve done this before – fallen for the newest marvel in Philly, only to later realize he was nothing more than a false idol or one-game wonder.
More accurately, I’ve done this before. I watched Al Hill’s 1977 debut with the Flyers (2 goals, 3 assists, 1 fight) and envisioned the next Gordie Howe. Turned out Hill’s first turn on the ice was the peak of his 221-game career.
I made the same blunder with Bobby Hoying, Andy Delmore and Vince Velasquez. I expected Sav Rocca to shatter punting records. Hey, I even started a fan club in 2011 to honor young Phils reliever Antonio Bastardo, enticing more than 400 similarly smitten optimists to join. I wonder how many still have their “Bastardo’s Bastids” T-shirts tucked away in a drawer.
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So I write these next words with trepidation: I believe 23-year-old Phils rookie reliever Seranthony Dominguez is the next star in our midst.
Don’t buy it? OK, fine. Listen to Gabe Kapler, who said over the weekend, “I think we have something special in Seranthony.”
“He’s a strike thrower and that’s a really good profile for a reliever who throws 97 to 99,” the effusive Phils manager said. “Plus he can land his secondary pitch for a strike, and by the way, that’s kind of nasty, too. His fastball has cut and sometimes sinks.”
What’s not to love? Since making his debut on May 7, Seranthony (why use his last name when the first name is so cool?) broke a Major League record by not allowing a hit or baserunner in the first six outings of his career. No reliever in recorded history (since 1908) ever did that.
On Saturday, he notched his first save with two perfect innings against St. Louis. Cards hitters shook their heads walking back to the dugout as Seranthony’s cutter kept hitting 98 MPH on the speed gun. “I didn’t even know there was such thing as a 98-mph cutter, to be honest,” Phils SS Scott Kingery marveled afterward.
The Phillies are a fun and surprising team this year. A quarter-way through the season, they have a shot to contend. Among their few weaknesses has been closer, as Hector Neris has already blown three saves and racked up a 4.76 ERA. He is not the answer.
But what if Seranthony can step in? Hey, it’s not unheard of for rookie closers to dominate. Craig Kimbrell had 46 saves as a 23-year-old for Atlanta in 2011. And Jonathan Papelbon had 35 with an 0.92 ERA for the Red Sox in 2006. (Sorry about dredging up that bad name, Phils fans.)
Seranthony clearly has the stuff to do it. It’s an open question whether he has the confidence, and we’ll have to see how he survives tougher situations. Major League hitters are savvy and talented enough that they’ll learn his weakness (everyone has a weakness) and aim to exploit it.
But I’m going to approach this with optimism and push my chips in on the kid. Until proven wrong, I’ll believe the Good Guys have found their first reliable closer since “Lights Out” Lidge. I’ll close my eyes and dive into the deep end for Seranthony.
I do promise, however – no T-shirts until at least July.