Talking with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies last week, Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told the show’s hosts the Nats hoped to have their two IL’d left-handed relievers, Sean Doolittle and Roenis Elías, back from the Injured List sooner than later.
Elías injured his right hamstring running out a grounder in his first game with the Nationals on August 2nd in Arizona, two days after he was acquired from the Seattle Mariners at the trade deadline.
He was told not to swing when he went to the plate, with his manager hoping to get a few extra outs out of the lefty, but he swung, made contact, and got injured running to first.
Doolittle went on the 10-Day Injured List with right knee tendinitis on August 18th, after a few rough outings for the closer, whose mechanics were, by his own admission, a bit off, and in need of a little tweaking.
“We’re hoping in the near future that we get both Doolittle and Elías back in the bullpen,” Rizzo said, “which will help us.”
Both relievers took big steps towards returning when they threw simulated games in the nation’s capital on Wednesday afternoon.
Roenis Elías on what he'll do if given another at-bat upon returning: "If they want to throw three straight fastballs down the middle, go ahead. I'll take all of 'em."— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) August 28, 2019
Both now are close to returning the major leagues, though when they actually will remains unclear.
“I’d like to have them both back as soon as possible,” Davey Martinez said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, before the Nats played the second of two with the Baltimore Orioles in D.C. on Wednesday night.
“That would be nice. But at the same time, we have to make sure we check all the boxes.”
Doolittle checked some of the necessary boxes, Martinez said, and the Nats’ skipper liked what he saw from his closer.
“He said he felt good, so we’ll see how well he recovers tomorrow and we’ll go from there,” Martinez explained. “But I was pleased. He threw 16 pitches, the ball came our fairly well.”
“We actually put him on film,” the manager added, “so we’re going to watch him, watch his mechanics, watch his arm angle, and just kind of see where he’s at and then like I said we’ll see how he feels tomorrow and then we’ll go from there.”
Elías, Martinez said, is itching to go and looks ready to return.
“He definitely has checked all the boxes,” Martinez said, as quoted on MASN.
“He’s raring to go. ... If he comes back tomorrow and says there’s no issues with his hamstring, he doesn’t feel anything, then he should be back for the weekend.”
Doolittle told reporters on Tuesday night that he was in a much better place mentally after the time off, and had he’d tweaked his mechanics while out.
“I kind of needed a mental break,” he said. “That two-week stretch there was really rough, and all through that process I was looking for answers, I was trying to find things and make adjustments and none of them were working, so when you’re spinning your wheels like that, it’s kind of — it’s a really helpless feeling. You’re searching for answers and you don’t really know how to fix it or where that fix is going to come from, so to be able to press pause and get my body right, it’s helped me a lot mentally as well, so I’m in a much better place right now.”
How he feels tomorrow will determine the next step, and how he looks when he gets back on the mound in game action could go a long way in determining what the Nats will be able to do down the stretch ... and beyond.
Doolittle said his right knee felt good and that was encouraging, but he wants to continue to hone his mechanics before returning to a big league game: "I felt good physically, and that was encouraging, but not good enough where I want my next appearance to be up here."— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) August 29, 2019