Sean Doolittle throws for Nationals, with next step being a simulation game
PHILADELPHIA | Sean Doolittle moved back and forth, catching a five-foot wooden stick as one end dropped slowly towards the carpet while he worked out in the air-conditioned Nationals clubhouse.
“Act like a tennis player,” said a member of the Nationals’ medical staff, giving pointers to the lefty pitcher before Monday’s game.
Doolittle, who was working on the agility of his feet like a tennis player roaming the baseline, continues to make progress as he tries to return from left toe inflammation. He threw before Tuesday’s game in South Philadelphia and the next step will come Friday when he throws in simulation game, according to manager Dave Martinez.
“The last time I saw him throw his bullpen he looked pretty normal,” Martinez said. “Toward the end, he got fatigued. But today he threw the ball pretty well. We will have a sim game on Friday and go from there. He is progressively getting better. The ball is coming out pretty good now.”
Will he still have pain in his foot going forward?
“I think the pain is going to be there for the rest of the year, I really do,” Martinez said. “But it is manageable. He said he feels better. He is one of the best. He is definitely missed.”
Doolittle was named to the National League All-Star team earlier this season, but was not able to play in the game at Nationals Park due to his injury. The former University of Virginia standout is 3-2 with a 1.45 ERA and 22 saves in 35 games this season.
He has been on the disabled list since July 10 with left toe inflammation and has missed 45 games through Monday.
Without Doolittle, the Nationals have used several pitchers to close out games.
One of them, Kelvin Herrera, went on the 10-day disabled list on Monday with a torn left Lisfranc ligament that took place Sunday in New York against the Mets. He is 1-2, 4.34 in 21 games with three saves with Washington this season.
Signed to a minor league contract by the Nationals this year, Justin Miller picked up just his second career save Monday. He got the last three outs in the ninth as Washington beat Philadelphia, 5-3. Miller has one save for the Nationals in 39 outings this season.
The Nationals have scored 10 runs in a game 13 times this year and been blanked 14 times, tied for the league lead.
“It is just baseball,” Miller said. “One game we score 25 runs. The next game we win 1-0. Baseball is a crazy game.”
Veteran reliever Ryan Madson gave up a home run in the eighth inning Monday to the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins. Madson came off the disabled list Monday and has four saves but a 5.28 ERA in 49 outings.
The Nationals were 66-66 in games through Monday and entered Tuesday eight games back of first-place Atlanta and 4 games back behind second-place Philadelphia. Washington has not won a series on the road against a team with a winning record since May.
There were five teams ahead of the Nationals in the wild card race who had a record of at least nine games above .500 through Monday. For Washington to end the season 10 games over .500 it would have to win 20 of its last 30 contests.
The Nationals end a three-game series in Philadelphia on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. as lefty Gio Gonzalez (7-11, 4.35) faces Phillies right-hander Jake Arrieta (9-9, 3.37). Washington is off Thursday and begins a three-game series at home Friday against the Milwaukee Brewers.