It’s a tough blow, made even tougher by the fact that Sean Doolittle, who struggled with injuries and decreased velocity when he last pitched for the Nationals in 2020, before a return to the organization as a free agent this year after he pitched for both Cincinnati’s Reds and the Seattle Mariners in 2021, was off to a strong start.
Doolittle was throwing with increased velo and was really impressive in his first few outings of the 2022 campaign.
Following his sixth scoreless appearance of the season on Wednesday, however, the 35-year-old reliever felt something in his left elbow, which felt worse than some discomfort he’d had in there after his previous outing in Pittsburgh. He felt again as he warmed up to pitch on Tuesday, and told the team’s trainers after he was done that he didn’t feel right.
He went on the IL with a left elbow sprain before the 3rd of 4 with Arizona in D.C. last night.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about it last night. Flew too close to the sun, man,” Doolittle told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, referring to his strong start, successful introduction of a new curve, and the increased velocity this season.
“Finally develops a breaking ball and ends up on the IL. It had been a long con. I’d been setting guys up for 10 years without a breaking ball, and I start throwing a breaking ball now, and look where it got me,” he added, with what MASN’s Zuckerman described as a, “laugh and a sigh.”
His manager said the news hit hard, and he spent a long time talking to Doolittle after they got the results of his MRI on Tuesday night.
“It’s hard,” Davey Martinez said. “I talked to him last night for a while, just because of the history that we have together. It was tough. And I told him, I said, ‘Hey, we’ll figure this out. You’re strong, you’ve got the will to get through this, and just know that you are not alone and we’ll get through this together and we’ll see what we come up with. So, just hang in there and rehab and get ready and hopefully we’ll forget about this in a couple weeks and we’ll move on.”
There’s no timetable now for how long Doolittle might be out.
“We don’t have a timetable,” Doolittle explained. “I know that sounds like I’m talking around it and talking in generalities, but we’ve got to let it tell us what’s going on,” the left-hander said. “So we’re going to throw ourselves into that process right now, starting today. I actually started last night. By the end of that 10 days, we’ll start throwing again, see where we’re at and go from there.”
“I think at this point we’re just going to see what 10 days, 12 days, will do,” Martinez added, “and we’ll know more by then.
“As you know, I know Sean talks a lot to you guys, [laughs], at this point we’re just going to, one, we’re definitely going to be cautious, and two, we’ll see how the next 10-12 days will play out. Hopefully the inflammation will go down and if he feels better, we’ll go from there.”
Martinez echoed what his reliever said when he spoke about first hearing Doolittle had an issue with his elbow.
“Honestly, my first [time] hearing it was yesterday when he came out of the game. I know he said he felt some soreness, but he pitched in Pittsburgh and said he felt fine, but yesterday after he came out he said he was a lot more sore than he was, so we decided to look into it a little bit more, we’ll look into it, period, and then found out he has some inflammation.”