Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle will undergo an internal brace procedure to repair damage to the UCL in his throwing elbow, Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post was among those to relay (on Twitter). That comes with a five-to-six month recovery timetable, so his 2022 season is over. Doolittle is hopeful of being ready by the start of Spring Training.
It’s a frustrating but not wholly unexpected development, as manager Dave Martinez told reporters yesterday that Doolittle was headed for evaluation after experiencing soreness during a recent bullpen session. The left-hander had been on the injured list since mid-April due to an elbow sprain, and his efforts to rehab were cut short by the setback. The small silver lining is that the damage wasn’t so extensive Doolittle required a complete Tommy John reconstruction.
The news could mark the end of the 11-year veteran’s second stint in Washington. Doolittle starred with the Nats between being acquired at the 2017 trade deadline through the end of the following season. His numbers tailed off a bit in 2019, but he still soaked up 60 innings and saved 29 games for the eventual World Series champions. Injuries cost him most of 2020, and he split last season between the Reds and Mariners. Doolittle returned to the Nationals on a buy-low $1.5MM guarantee during Spring Training.
He made six scoreless appearances before landing on the IL. He’ll again hit free agency after the season, and he may need to conduct a showcase for interested clubs whenever he returns to health next winter. Doolittle turns 36 years old in September, but there’s no indication the two-time All-Star isn’t planning to continue his career after working his way back from the upcoming surgery.