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For Nationals closer Sean Doolittle, the fix is in this offseason

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For Nationals closer Sean Doolittle, the fix is in this offseason

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Seven years before Sean Doolittle was born in Rapid City, South Dakota, Bob Vila was hired to host “This Old House” after receiving the "Heritage House of 1978" award by Better Homes and Gardens for his restoration of a Victorian Italianate house in Newton, Massachusetts. 

Vila’s beard and decade of helping homeowners through the never-ending projects that accompany house ownership earned him fame. He went on to be a spokesperson for Sears after leaving the show. His name is a punchline for anyone trying to mock a less-skilled home improver.

Perhaps, in the future, “Doolittle” will also be associated with fixing house issues. He’s going through the initial steps by doing work around his first house, which he recently purchased with his wife, Eireann Dolan, in Chicago near where she grew up.

The house was recently renovated. That doesn’t mean everything is perfect, which has sent the Nationals’ All-Star closer down Internet rabbit holes in search of solutions for a variety of home remedies.

“Watching a lot of YouTube videos,” Doolittle said. “DIY projects and stuff like that.”

The splattered white across Doolittle’s black shoes Sunday proved his efforts to be authentic. He recently attempted to caulk the shower, an endeavor he claims was accomplished, but also had minor mishaps along the way.

“I ended up caulking some other stuff, too,” Doolittle said. “But I got it done. Shoes are more waterproof now.”

Doolittle’s career earnings cracked $10 million last season, seemingly affording him a chance to hire out for jobs. Instead, he claims an emotional investment in the house necessary. 

“It’s our first house,” Doolittle said. “You’ve got to have some skin in the game! You know? There’s some stuff you can figure out. Painting walls and hanging stuff. Putting furniture together and stuff like that. I can handle that now. I’m getting better.”

He stopped short of confirming he is “handy” Sunday at Nationals Winterfest. Doolittle also addressed his mixed-bag season. When on the mound in 2018, his 1.60 ERA and 12 strikeouts per nine represented the best work of his career. The foot injury that limited him to 43 games represented still-present frustration.

“I’m really happy with how I pitched when I was healthy,” Doolittle said. “But going into the season, my biggest goal was to pitch a full season, and I didn’t get to do that again. This was, I think, really the first time in my career that I had an extended stay for something that wasn’t an arm issue. So in a way that was good, but in a way it almost made it more frustrating. Then I couldn’t be out there because of something that was pretty random and I don’t really know why it cropped up in the first place. I was happy with how I pitched, but I still feel like I didn’t accomplish everything I wanted to accomplish, because I wasn’t able to stay healthy for the full season.”

Doolittle said the foot is fine, as is the rest of his body, now. He expects to start throwing this week following a month of shoulder strengthening and arm care. The presence of new bullpen pieces Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough have him excited. Just don’t ask him to fix the drywall.



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Davey Martinez hospitalized for precautionary reasons during Nationals’ Sunday win

Davey Martinez hospitalized for precautionary reasons during Nationals’ Sunday win

WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Davey Martinez left the dugout in the sixth inning on Sunday after not feeling well. 

Team physicians assessed him and decided the best course of action was for Martinez to go to a local hospital for further examination. Bench coach Chip Hale replaced Martinez for the remainder of the Nationals' 7-0 win against Atlanta on Sunday afternoon.

"So, just for precautionary reasons, they took him to the hospital to see what's going on, but we're expecting everything to be good," Hale said.

The team, set to fly to St. Louis on Sunday night, was informed postgame. 

"I don't know what's going on, so I can't really speak on that," Howie Kendrick said. "I knew, I think it was the fifth inning, maybe? And then Chip took over as manager. Then after that, all you can worry about is hopefully, he's doing great. I wish him the best. I love Davey. We talk pretty much every day. He's got a lot of insight and I've known him for years -- playing against him in the American League, too. He's done a great job this year. I wish him the best right now. Like I said, I don't know what's really going on, but hopefully it's nothing major."

Hale said Martinez, 54, in his second year as the team's manager, is expected to join the team in St. Louis.


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Saturday night’s scare for Charlie Culberson brought Sunday questions for many

Saturday night’s scare for Charlie Culberson brought Sunday questions for many

WASHINGTON -- Questions to be answered Sunday morning: How was Charlie Culberson? What did Fernando Rodney think? Why did he remain in the game? What exactly transpired between Davey Martinez and the umpires Saturday night?

First, Culberson. The Braves announced he has multiple facial fractures. He left the hospital Saturday night and slept at the hotel. Sunday, he flew back to Atlanta to be further evaluated.

“I talked to Charlie just a little bit ago,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He sounded good. One of the trainers will accompany him back to Atlanta and let the eye doctor and the specialist see him. I didn’t see him. I talked to him. The guys that did see him said he looked better than they thought he would this morning. He sounded good, for what he’d been through. It’s all very encouraging.”

All things considered, this is one of the better scenarios after a 91-mph fastball hit Culberson on the upper right side of his face in the seventh inning Saturday. The game froze, Rodney’s face went blank and a hush dropped over the crowd. Rodney was not in the clubhouse when reporters entered Saturday night following an extended delay. Sunday morning, a still-concerned Rodney explained how he felt in the moment and afterward.

“I really don't know what's going on,” Rodney said. “I only saw that I hit him in the face, it was a scary moment for me, the player, for them. The reaction ... that's part of the game sometimes. I don't want to hit nobody, no matter where, but I don't want to hit no player."

What were you thinking when it appeared you wanted to come to the plate?

“I wanted to say sorry,” Rodney said. “I want to say sorry because I don't want that to happen to nobody. Sometimes ... a lot of things happen in this game."

Did you want to still pitch afterward?

"Really after that I say [in my head] I don't want to,” Rodney said. “I feel sorry that that happen. I feel like I tried to do something, I'm supposed to do, but that's baseball. You have to continue to keep working... You try to recover your mind and keep going and doing your thing."

Which leads to the next question. Why was Rodney still in the game after the incident? Multiple opportunities existed to remove him. After he struck out Adam Duvall, who replaced Culberson, was a chance. Two batters later -- following back-to-back doubles, one of them a bloop by Ozzie Albies -- was another. Instead, Rodney remained in the game while it unwound.

Martinez said Sunday neither he nor pitching coach Paul Menhart spoke with Rodney after the incident. Instead, they motioned to him to see if he was all right.

“Kind of made little gestures to him back and forth,” Martinez said. “And he was saying he wanted to stay in. I talked to him [Sunday] again, he said he never wants to hit anybody. He said, I know as much as that moment you feel bad, but he said I had to pitch. I know that. Trying to win a game, I had to pitch, he said [Sunday] is another day and if I need him, he’s ready to pitch.”

Part of the fallout from the night includes criticism of Martinez for asking the umpires to check if the pitch should be called a strike. Home plate umpire and crew chief Tim Timmons told a pool reporter Saturday night:

“The very first concern was clearly for (Culberson). In the process of asking him to stay on the ground and not move and the trainer getting out there and them starting to look at him. After we got into that a little bit, Dave Martinez was saying something to me. I couldn’t hear him. So, I walked over and I said, ‘What’s going on?’ He said, ‘We’d like you to check on whether or not he offered at the pitch.’ I said, ‘Okay, I understand. I’ll do that.’ At which point, I went to first base umpire Bill Welke and asked him if he had him offer at the pitch. He said, ‘Yes, he did.’ So, that’s the situation.”

Martinez disputed that characterization of the situation Sunday.

“I really don't want to talk about that,” Martinez said. “I had a conversation with [Timmons]. The way it sounded was not the way...let's just say that. So, um. But, as a manager, it's kind of my job -- we're in a 1-1 game. That's all I'm going to say. It stinks. It wasn't the way it was portrayed to be.”

Martinez was asked what’s the line between trying to win the game and handling the situation with sensitivity.

“I'm going to be honest with you, the last thing I wanted to do was be a jackass,” Martinez said. “I'll tell you right now. All right? But, they get it. They understood. It's part of the game. We're in a 1-1 game. I would think that everybody would understand that. It's unfortunate. It stunk. As we all recall, we had a player [Trea Turner] break his finger in two places because he got hit and he had to go back and we had to get somebody else to hit for him.”

Snitker said he understood, from a competitive perspective, why Martinez would talk to the umpires.

“I’m sure they don’t like doing it,” Snitker said. “I guess over the course of a game, that’s one of the things you do ask about. Hard as it might be, you’re still within your right to do that.”

Though, Snitker continued to disagree with the umpire’s conclusion that Culberson swung at the pitch.

Martinez called Snitker on Sunday morning to express his, and Rodney’s, sympathies. Baseball resumed at 1:35 p.m. Rodney went down to the bullpen. Martinez took his spot on the dugout steps. Culberson went home to heal.