Starlin Castro buzzed Sean Doolittle’s tower with a line drives single to center with two out in Thursday’s series opener between the Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals.
Doolittle dropped to the ground on the mound, and though it ended up sailing well over his head, the reaction was warranted.
He worked another game after that, throwing a scoreless frame in Friday’s 3-2 win to earn the save, but on Saturday afternoon, Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes reported that the Nationals’ closer had undergone an MRI on his foot.
“The MRI was precautionary,” the WaPost reporter noted, “... and the team does not expect this to develop into a major problem,” she added, quoting “one team official” who said, “it’s not a big deal.”
Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez addressed the issue before Sunday afternoon’s series finale with the Marlins.
“He’s good,” Martinez said. “He’s going out there to throw right now. Yesterday he had a day off. He had a little bit of a strained toe, but he said he feels okay.”
“The other day he tripped or fell on the mound — when the line drive, and apparently he caught his toe and he was sore, but he said he’s fine.”
Any sort of injury issue for Doolittle would be a big blow to the Nationals, who’ve dealt with their share of them already this season, but their closer, who entered play on Sunday with a 1.45 ERA, a 1.94 FIP, three walks (0.72 BB/9), 49 Ks (11.81 K/9), and .134/.167/.220 line against over 37 1⁄3 innings, in which he’s thrown 88.9% fastballs, has been an indispensable part of the back end of the bullpen.
Martinez said what stood out for him with his closer is Doolittle’s unwavering willingness to go right at opposing hitters and challenge them with his heater.
“Really, he just goes after you,” the first-year skipper said.
“And he knows how to pitch. Now he’s got three pitches that he feels comfortable throwing, but he’s a fastball pitcher and he knows that, so he attacks the hitters.”
He’s also been impressed with the left-hander’s preparation, and work ethic.
“His routine is really good every day,” Martinez said. “He gets in there with the trainers and he’s got an unbelievable routine before each game and then goes out and throws and he tells me when he’s available and when he’s not, and like I said, I have this open dialogue with those guys, and I know his history so we want to keep him healthy, and when he says he needs a day I honestly believe that he needs a day.
“Yesterday was a perfect example, he pitched two days in a row so I knew he was going to be down yesterday, and I wanted him to be down and Max [Scherzer] did a great job to keep us in the game, we scored a lot of runs, and we were able to keep those guys down and now they’re fresh for today.”
After avoiding that line drive, and a potential injury, Doolittle is fresh for the last week of the so-called “first half” of the season, and an appearance in the All-Star Game.
The 31-year-old lefty was named an All-Star for the second time in his career on Sunday, and he was excited about the opportunity to represent D.C. in the 89th Midsummer Classic.
Doolittle didn’t let himself get distracted thinking about an All-Star selection, but he was thrilled when he got the news.
“I think I didn’t really let myself think about it that much, it was kind of one of those things where I was like, ‘Well, I’ve got to focus on my job,’ and pitching in high-leverage situations, coming into the game when there’s a lot of inherent pressure, I think if you have your sights set on anything other than what’s right directly in front of you, it’s just a distraction.”
“It means a lot,” Doolittle said. “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, 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.”