WASHINGTON -- Sean Doolittle stopped his press conference to reach for his phone. He logged in, looked and then confirmed what he was about to say. His coronavirus test results from Friday were not back yet mid-day Sunday despite Doolittle already being tested again that morning. He’s frustrated.
“So, we've got to clean that up, right?” Doolittle said, rhetorically. “That's one thing that makes me a little nervous."
Sunday, with his gray cloth mask over his face and hair suggesting it was just freed from a hat, Doolittle went through his plan to play. There is no guarantee he will. He’s concerned foremost about the possibility of his wife, Eireann Dolan, who is high-risk because of a chronic lung condition, becoming sick. So, they have decided to live separately. She is in the area in case he needs her and not “half a country” away in their Chicago home. Meanwhile, he is maximizing his precautions while he feels things out at the ballpark.
“So she’s close enough where if something happens, if I get sick, even though she can’t be with me because she’s high-risk, she’ll be able to help in some way,” Doolittle said. “Bring groceries or stop by the house and make sure I have everything I need, something like that. From that standpoint, we’re feeling a little bit better about it.
“But I don’t know. So far – and we’re only three days into this – our medical staff has been doing an incredible job. I think it’s running as smoothly as it can at this point. Like a lot of players, [I think] the opt-out provisions are not great. There’s a lot of players right now trying to make decisions that might be participating in camp that aren’t 100 percent comfortable with where things are at right now. That’s kind of where I am.
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“I think I'm planning on playing, but if at any point I start to feel unsafe, if it starts to take a toll on my mental health with all these things that we have to worry about and just kind of this cloud of uncertainty hanging over everything, then I'll opt-out. But for now I've prepared for the last three months like I'm going to play. I feel ready to go.”
A handful of players -- including two of Doolittle’s teammates, Joe Ross and Ryan Zimmerman -- have chosen not to play this season. Los Angeles starter David Price decided Saturday he would not play in 2020.
And, each day brings new positive tests -- as expected. Players continue to debate what to do going forward. Doolittle wonders what news his phone is going to provide every time it rattles because of an alert.
“It’s been weird, man,” Doolittle said. “It’s been really weird. My mental health is something that I’m really going to have to stay on top of. I can already tell this is going to be a grind mentally and I might go crazy before anything else.
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“Like I said, there’s this cloud of uncertainty. You’re always kind of waiting for more bad news. Every time I get a text message or something on my phone throughout the day, I’m worried that it’s either going to be some kind of bad news -- like somebody in the league tested positive or somebody opted out or so-and-so broke protocols and there’s pictures of people going out on social media when they shouldn’t be. And just the regular procedures of the day. It’s a lot. It’s very, very different. And unfortunately there’s not a long period of adjustments and there’s not a lot of room for error.”
Doolittle threw from the game mound in Nationals Park on Saturday. He wore his mask most of the time he was pitching (players are not required to on the field). His usual post-session fist bump for the catcher was stifled. There was no face-to-face discussion about how his pitches were acting. He left for a spaced-out clubhouse where the water sits outside of a fridge so no one repeatedly touches a handle. Then, he went home to a different place than where his wife is, waiting for his coronavirus test results from the last three days.
This will be his life from now until at least the middle of October, if not later, should he choose to play and baseball make it that long. Both remain in question.
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