Before he ended up on the 10-Day Disabled List with what was described in a press release on the injury as left toe inflammation, Nationals’ closer Sean Doolittle learned he’d earned a spot on the National League’s roster for the 2018 MLB All-Star Game, which is being held on July 17th in the nation’s capital.
It was the second All-Star selection for Doolittle in his seven-year career.
Washington’s 31-year-old lefty put up a 1.45 ERA, a 1.96 FIP, three walks (0.72 BB/9), 49 Ks (11.81 K/9), and a .134/.167/.220 line against, with 22 saves in 23 opportunities over 37 1⁄3 IP to earn the nod, which he was clearly excited about.
“It means a lot,” he told reporters before he was placed on the DL.
“Getting selected to the All-Star Game is a really special honor. It is really difficult to do. For me, I think of where I was a year ago. At this time I wasn’t even traded over here yet, I wasn’t even the closer on that team [the Oakland A’s], and now I get to represent this team and this city, in front of these fans in the All-Star Game, it’s incredible, it still hasn’t really sunk in yet, to be honest.”
Two days later he realized he wasn’t going to pitch in the Midsummer Classic.
On Saturday in Citi Field, Doolittle talked about where he was as far as being disappointed that he won’t be able to pitch in the All-Star Game and wanting to make sure he’s ready for the second half.
“It’s a bummer, for sure,” he said.
“But as I look back on my first All-Star experience, the actual game isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. I think my memories of that experience are being around the other guys that were selected to the team, being in that locker room and kind of sharing that space with some of those guys and being on the field for the Derby.
“It would have been really special to have a chance to pitch and to maybe close a game out in front of the hometown fans in the home park.”
After striking out two and giving up a hit in his one previous All-Star appearance, he actually watched the Twins’ closer at the time do just that when the All-Star Game was held in Target Field.
“In that aforementioned All-Star Game that I was in in 2014,” Doolittle said, “Glen Perkins got to do it in Minnesota, it was a really cool moment and I almost got it. I almost had a chance to do that.”
“But at the end of the day, I’m a fan of this game and I’m excited to partake in all the festivities and be in uniform and soak it up as much as I can.”
Getting to do everything involved with the All-Star Game but pitch, Doolittle said, was some consolation.
“Yeah, and because it’s at our park,” he explained, “... we’re going to have members of our training staff that are going to be at the ballpark during those days in D.C. over the break so I’ll be able to continue this rehab and continue to get better, so that’s good news as well.”
While the original explanation was that he’d hurt his foot/toe when he fell on the mound as he tried to avoid a liner that buzzed his tower, the Nationals’ reliever said he’s not sure that is when it actually happened.
“I don’t know if it was from that or not,” he said.
“I went back and looked at the video a couple days later, after this cropped up, and I don’t know if it was from that or not, but there’s a pinched nerve in my foot, higher up on the bridge of my foot between the first and second bones up here, and it got really swollen and I couldn’t — it’s your nerve, so any time it’s weight-bearing or had pressure on it it was really, really painful.”
He tried to throw a bullpen after it started to bother him but was uncomfortable with the way it felt.
“It went okay,” Doolittle said, “but the ball wasn’t coming out of my hand the same way, I couldn’t really get into my mechanics like I needed to and at some point you have to be concerned with a lower body injury not letting your arm work the right way.
“So is it going to risk a shoulder injury or something like that.
“My mobility was also really bad if I had to cover first or field a bunt, I wouldn’t have been able to do that, so we’ve been making really good progress though.
“I think I’m out of the boot and I’m able to walk normal, and I played catch yesterday and it went really well, so I’m making progress.”
Also, he joked, he’s been calling it a “foot injury” rather than an issue with his toe.
“That’s just my ego,” he laughed.
“It’s — you’ve got a big walking boot like that, I was like, dang, all this for a ‘toe injury’, and so I was like, ‘No, it’s actually my foot.’ But it’s just my ego though.”
Though he’s missing the opportunity to pitch in front of his home crowd in the first D.C. All-Star Game since 1969, Doolittle has been in Washington for close to a year now, and he said he loves the nation’s capital.
“I love the city. My wife and I, we’re so happy there. I think that there was a lot that I didn’t know about the city. Even though we’d visited it several times, we never really made it much past the monuments, the museums, and the National Mall and stuff like that, that stuff is awesome, but there is a whole other world to D.C. and there are some really, really cool neighborhoods with some really cool creative energy in the city, and we’re not really like foodies, we’re not really into that stuff, but that’s kind of a part of that creative culture and we’ve enjoyed kind of exploring some of those pockets around the city and neighborhoods like Shaw and Columbia Heights and stuff like that that are changing, but still have like a very — like their identity is still very much a part of the history of D.C. and it’s really cool.”