Back off the injured list and thriving again, Sean Doolittle was in a good place for the Washington Nationals Thursday night when his season took a tragic turn and likely ended.
After delivering his fourth pitch of the ninth inning of the Nationals’ 7-6 loss to Atlanta, the left-hander clutched his right side and called Manager Davey Martinez and Head Athletic Trainer Paul Lessard out of the dugout.
Doolittle hobbled off the mound and was helped off the field.
“He has a right oblique [injury]. He’s getting examined right now,” Martinez said postgame, before going to check on Doolittle personally. “I’m concerned, that’s a tough one for any athlete.”
Martinez said the worst ran though his mind when Doolittle signaled for him.
“When you see somebody injured like that and kind of hunched over, it scares you, you don’t know what the problem is. I honestly first thought it was his knee, but I went out there and he said it was his oblique,” the manager said.
Doolittle struggled early in the abridged 2020 season, suffering from reduced velocity and ineffectiveness and was 0-1 with a 15.00 ERA in his first five relief appearances before spending 17 days on the injured list with right knee fatigue. He spent that time at the alternate training site in Fredericksburg, VA, working on his mechanics.
When he came back Aug. 30, he had a touch more on his fastball and said he felt good in his delivery for the first time all season. Specifically, he cited the return of a foot motion that mimics his infamous “toe tap,” saying it helps him focus and not rush his delivery.
Doolittle had allowed only two hits and two earned runs from since his return, and he was coming off a perfect inning with two strikeouts in Tuesday’s 5-3 win over Tampa Bay.
After one-third of an inning Thursday, his season likely ends with a very un-indicative 0-2 record and 5.87 ERA. Doolittle’s future with the Nationals is also in question.
The 33-year-old veteran is finishing a seven-year, $22.5 million contract he signed before Oakland traded him to the Nationals in 2017 and will become a free agent at season’s end.