The Nationals announced today that they have activated closer Sean Doolittle. He has been sidelined since mid-July with a stress reaction in his left foot.
While the initial expectation was that Doolittle would only miss a brief stretch, he ended up on the shelf for a key portion of the season in which the club failed to get back into the picture in the NL East. Now, despite some less-than-stirring recent performances from the division-leading Braves and Phillies, the Nats are buried at three games under .500 and 8.5 games off of the divisional pace.
Clearly, there’s no longer any reasonable hope that Doolittle will help his team climb back into contention. Particularly in these circumstances, and given his long-running challenges with injuries, it stands to reason that he’ll be handled carefully upon his return.
Before going on the DL, Doolittle had been one of the game’s most dominant relievers. In 37 1/3 innings, he allowed just six earned runs on a paltry 17 hits and three walks — good for an absurd 0.536 WHIP — while racking up 49 strikeouts.
Fortunately for the Nats, there are still two more seasons of control left to work with. The extension that Doolittle signed with the A’s, who dealt him to D.C. last summer, includes consecutive club options of just $6MM and $6.5MM ($500K buyout apiece) for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.