Nationals lefty Sean Doolittle has been diagnosed with a right oblique strain, manager Dave Martinez tells reporters (Twitter link via Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post). The exact results of his MRI aren’t yet available, but Martinez described Doolittle’s injury as a “pretty good” strain. Left-hander Ben Braymer is up from the Nats’ alternate site to take his spot on the roster, and the Nats have formally announced that Doolittle is on the 10-day injured list.
It’s a tough blow for the 33-year-old Doolittle, who missed about three weeks in August due to knee troubles. He hadn’t looked right prior to his first IL stint, but Doolittle didn’t allow an earned run in 4 2/3 innings upon activation late last month. His velocity was down early in the year, and while it hadn’t yet returned to its typical levels, Doolittle’s heater had shown some more life this month.
There’s no specific timeline provided for his return, but even low-grade oblique strains can sideline players for around a month at a time. Given that there are only 16 days remaining in the regular season, it’s eminently possible — if not probable — that Doolittle will not return before the 2020 campaign draws to a close. With the Nats all but out of postseason contention and Doolittle slated to become a free agent this winter, one can’t help but wonder whether yesterday’s early departure marked the end of what has been a highly successful tenure in D.C.
Acquired alongside Ryan Madson back in 2017, Doolittle has spent parts of four seasons in the Nationals organization — much of it as the team’s closer. He’s racked up 142 2/3 innings of 3.03 ERA ball with 10.3 K/9 against just 2.1 BB/9 en route to 75 saves during the regular season. Doolittle’s postseason work has been even better, as he’s allowed just two runs on seven hits and a walk with 12 punchouts in 13 1/3 innings across the 2017 and 2019 playoffs. Doolittle tallied three saves and three holds in that time.
The trade cost the Nationals a then-19-year-old Jesus Luzardo, who was recovering from Tommy John surgery at the time. Still, it’s hard to say that it hasn’t worked out for the Nats. Madson was brilliant down the stretch in ’17, and Doolittle has been a mainstay in the bullpen since the time of his acquisition, ultimately closing out Game 1 and Game 6 in last year’s World Series.