Sean Doolittle pitched on Sunday for the first time since Aug. 10. It was better, though better for him is a low bar this season.
“It’s been good these past three or four days, even though I haven’t thrown, just being back with the guys on the team,” Doolittle said. “Getting back into my routines and just the process of getting ready to pitch and compete in the game rather than working through some stuff.”
Doolittle entered in the middle of the seventh inning. He faced four batters, allowed two singles, and lowered his ERA from 15.00 to 12.27. Both hits had large potential to be outs. Jackie Bradley Jr. singled to right field on a 1-0 pitch. It was hit softly. Boston rookie Bobby Dalbec popped a fly ball to center field that Victor Robles and Luis García played into a hit via poor communication.
In all, the Boston contact was weak. Exit velocities for the four hitters was 79.3 mph, 78.8, 77.0 and 74.7. Positive news for Doolittle there. Also, his fastball averaged 90 mph. It’s a slight improvement. Alex Verdugo popped up a slider for an out. Another positive.
However, each time a Boston batter swung, he made contact. Five swings, zero whiffs.
At a minimum, it’s a start for Doolittle. He thinks his mechanics improved during his two weeks at the alternate training site in Fredericksburg. Which leads him to think things will improve at the major-league level.
“I think such a big thing is just controlling my energy level,” Doolittle said. “Staying in a good tempo and not trying to do too much. As much as I rely on the analytics, there has to be a balance there for me. [Sunday], I think I did a good job of managing that.”
Davey Martinez has repeatedly said Doolittle needs to be a high-leverage pitcher for the Nationals to succeed.
“He threw at the top of the zone when he needed to,” Martinez said. “Threw a nice slider there at the end. If he can do that, we’re going to use him. I thought he did really well.”