Sean Doolittle, now 37, announced his retirement late this summer, after eleven seasons in the majors, six of them in the Nationals’ organization. Doolittle made just six appearances back in 2022, before a left elbow injury ended his season, and he returned to try for a late-career run in Washington again this year, before a series of injuries forced him to accept he couldn’t get back.
“So, I had elbow surgery last summer,” Doolittle explained in a press conference officially announcing his decision to retire, “... and I rehabbed that all offseason, and we had a setback in Spring Training, which — the timing of it was tough, because I was pretty far along in that process, I was doing really well. So the season already was looking very different than I had hoped it would. And I had to take like a month off of throwing, and that set me back time-wise, but like, I got to a point where I finally graduated from Florida and started pitching on a rehab assignment, and in late June I partially tore the patella tendon in my right knee, at which point I found out that — you know I dealt with tendinitis in that knee for quite a while, and unfortunately at that point it was pretty far torn up, it was already too torn up for the clean-up surgery, so our only option really was to try to rehab it and see if we could get everything else in the leg to be as strong as possible, and really just see how far I could get by the end of the season.”
The ups and downs weren’t easy to navigate, but Doolittle took advantage of the resources available to him within the organization, and reset his goals to focus himself mentally on an achievable program.
“I did a lot of work mentally, because that was really tough, so I did a lot of work mentally with our mental skills coach,” Dolittle said, “and I was working with him every day, because I thought about calling it right then. As the schedule worked out, we had two off days, as the schedule worked out — I was with Rochester and we had two off days, so I thought about it and I said — at that point my goal became — it no longer was about getting back to the big leagues, it was like, ‘Let’s just see how far — how much progress I can make by the end of the season.’
“So I went to Florida with a much different mindset, and I threw myself into the work, and I enjoyed it. We stripped it down to the studs and we were trying to strengthen every part of the leg that we could. And I was making progress, I felt like, it just got to a point where I had an outing which was at the time was hopefully going to be my last outing in Florida, and it just wasn’t going to let me do it. It went pretty much all the way.”
That was it. Doolittle knew it.
“The work that I had done up to that point, changing my mindset into a more process-oriented mindset, when I got the news about my knee I knew what it meant for me,” he said.
“I put everything that I had into the rehab processes over the last two years to try to pitch again here at Nats Park,” Doolittle continued.
“I did everything I could, and I think that’s why today for me — this is a happy day. I don’t have any regrets, I did everything that I could, and I enjoyed it.
“I enjoyed the process of working on that stuff, and trying to change my mechanics to see if I could figure out a way to take the stress off my knee and still be effective, and also working with the young guys that were down there was a lot of fun too. So I still was getting a ton of fulfillment out of it, I was enjoying it, unfortunately by the end my body just wasn’t going to let me keep going.”
Though his playing (pitching) days are over, Doolittle said fans in the nation’s capital haven’t seen the last of him, noting he and his family have made D.C. their home.
“We love living here, this is home for us. So, D.C., they’re stuck with us.”
RIZZO’S PET PEEVE:
In a late-season visit with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked about the one thing he can’t stands: Relievers coming in and walking batters.
Here’s hoping all the young bullpen-bound arms in the organization are listening. When you get the call, pound the zone.
Davey Martinez is going to say it often, as he seems to say it to every pitcher, in every talk, and the GM will be watching and wanting to see you throw strikes.
“I don’t like when relievers come in and walk guys, it’s a big taboo for me,” Rizzo told the Junkies.
“It’s part of the game, I know, but I was always taught that big league pitchers, when you get to the big leagues you should be able to throw a strike whenever you want to, and it bothers me when guys come in — relievers come in — and walk people. It’s my pet peeve.”