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Washington Nationals’ closer Sean Doolittle talks Brandon Kintzler returning to the Nats’ bullpen + motivation for 2018...

Sean Doolittle was in Washington, D.C. this afternoon for Nationals WinterFest, and he talked about the Nats getting their three-headed monster back in the bullpen and more...

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Washington Nationals’ closer Sean Doolittle sounded as excited as anybody about set-up man Brandon Kintzler returning to the nation’s capital on a two-year deal that was announced earlier this week, pending completion of a physical.

With Kintzler back and Doolittle and Ryan Madson under contract for 2018 (and beyond in Doolittle’s case), the Nationals have the three-headed bullpen monster they were able to assemble late last July back for a full season together, and with some of the other arms in the mix, the Nats have the makings of an impressive relief corps.

“I think having me, Kintzler, and Madson,” Doolittle told reporters at Nats WinterFest today in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, “.... the experience that we got working the seventh, eighth, and ninth here last year, it kind of helped solidify things I guess, kind of helped things fall into place, and for [Kintzler] to come back, I think it’s awesome, I know he’s really excited about it, and I think you start thinking about the bullpen as a whole, you get guys like Koda [Glover] and Shawn [Kelley], they get healthy, those are almost like acquisitions in themselves, getting those guys coming back, so you see the bullpen kind of come into form and it’s really exciting to think about.”

Doolittle and Madson were acquired from Oakland in advance of the non-waiver trade deadline, and Kintzler came over from Minnesota just before the deadline passed, but they were able to gel really well as a late inning trio.

“It came together really well,” Doolittle said, “but I think now having the rest of the offseason and Spring Training to come together as a group, kind of having gotten some experience in the National League before, just kind of now going into it knowing what to expect, having experienced it a little bit over here last year during the second half, I think it’s going to help guys get comfortable and be able to be effective by the time the season starts.”

They were able to work so well together, in part, Doolittle said, because each of them focused on winning games instead of worrying about stats and bullpen roles, knowing they had an opportunity to get to the postseason, for the first time in Kintzler’s case, and the first time in a long time for the closer.

“I think we’re all at a point in our careers where we really just want to win,” Doolittle explained. “And we didn’t care who pitched in what role or what title was attached to them, what inning a guy was pitching in.

“We kind of set a lot of the personal stuff aside as far who was getting the holds and the saves. We just wanted to win.

“Madson, having won a couple World Series and Kintzler never having been to the playoffs, and for me it had been a while since I’d been to the playoffs as well, so we just wanted to win. And I think when you get guys that fully buy in like that and put that personal stuff aside, you can accomplish some really cool stuff as a group.

“The communication was really good between the three of us, between the three of us and the coaches, so I think it went a long way for helping us get comfortable and be able to settle in sooner rather than later.”

There will be new coaches this season, of course, and a new manager in Washington this season, and Doolittle said he had a chance to talk to new pitching coach Derek Lilliquist briefly, and he’s also been impressed with what he’s heard from new skipper Dave Martinez so far.

“I know [Lilliquist is] excited to be here,” Doolittle said, “it’s going to be fun, I know he’s excited to get to work with the pitching staff we’ve got here.”

As for Martinez?

“I’ve talked to him several times, and I love kind of the passion and the energy that he has,” Doolittle said.

“I think his experiences, not just being a bench coach for a long time, but the playing career, playing for so long in this league, there’s a lot that he’s experienced and that he’s been through and I think being both a player and a coach, winning a World Series a couple years ago with the Cubs, I know he’s chomping at the bit to get the reins and be the guy, and so that was the thing that I noticed about him was the energy that he had and kind of the vision that he has for this team, so I’m excited to work with him.”

While he had a solid run with the Nationals personally after the trade, saving 21 games in the 22 opportunities he got in D.C., and putting up a 2.40 ERA, eight walks (2.40 BB/9), 31 Ks (9.30 K/9), and a .204/.254/.29 line against in 30 games and 30 innings in Washington, things didn’t end well for the Nats, who dropped Game 5 of the NLDS to the Chicago Cubs.

Doolittle said the way things ended will definitely motivate the Nationals in 2018, though he said it wouldn’t put any unnecessary pressure on the team.

“It was really tough, the way that the season ended,” Doolittle said, “coming so close there in Game 5 and having it be such a tough loss. I think that made it a little easier to start the offseason workouts and stuff like that, but for now I think our sights are solely focused on 2018, and we’re not trying to make up for anything last year, we’re not trying to — I think that puts a little bit of unnecessary pressure and expectation on it, there already is pressure and expectation on this team moving forward, so I think we’re kind of focused on our goals for 2018.”