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Sean Doolittle opens up about trade rumors: 'I don't want to leave'

Sean Doolittle opens up about trade rumors: 'I don't want to leave'

WASHINGTON -- Among claims from professional athletes are three standards: we don’t look at what is written, we don’t look at the standings, we don’t know what’s coming on the schedule.

Often, these are mere clichés, old items recycled from pre-social media days. Even if they are true in this era, they don’t necessarily mean all that information -- particularly what is being written about them -- isn’t being funneled into their brain by friends or family. They read. They talk. It’s only natural.

Which brings us to the Washington Nationals’ eight-week long bumbling period to begin the season. By weeks six and seven, questions about who would be traded began to percolate. The choices ranged from logical -- an unextended Anthony Rendon, Howie Kendrick, Matt Adams, Brian Dozier and on -- to the no chance, which was where Max Scherzer resided. Toward the unlikely end of that spectrum was closer Sean Doolittle. The team holds a $6.5 million option on Doolittle for next season. The option provides a mere $500,000 raise. The hospitable deal combined with his quality production makes Doolittle enticing for the swarm of teams in search of bullpen help.

Some players in the Nationals clubhouse didn’t want to talk about if they ever heard or thought about rumors this season. Others said they kept that thought out of their mind -- as much as it is possible.

Doolittle was forthcoming on both fronts.

“A lot,” Doolittle told NBC Sports Washington about how much it entered his head. “It wasn’t necessarily like I was seeking out any of these trade rumors. But friends and family would send them to me. It seems like because the deadline is different -- there’s only one deadline -- it seemed to start earlier, all the trade speculation started earlier.

"For crying out loud, there were articles about trading Max. So people were, in a sense, putting us in the seller column really early. You see a couple things and that’s all it takes for your brain to run wild a little bit with some of that stuff.”

Doolittle’s first personal player movement occurred when Oakland sent him to Washington on July 10, 2017. He had never been in another organization. Following his first outing -- a save in which he allowed a walk, a hit, and a run -- Doolittle joked with reporters all his outings would not be like that.

Since, he has been one of the game’s best relievers, further pushed his voice on issues pertinent to him, eloped and settled into Washington’s climate. Which is why a trade suggestion caught his attention once it was relayed.

“I will say it’s tough because you don’t have control over it,” Doolittle said. “For some people, it might be easy to say, ‘Hey, I’m not going to think about it because I can’t control it.’ At the same time, that’s why it’s a little disconcerting, is you don’t have control over it. After going through it once before, it’s not as scary as maybe it was. I don’t know. I really want to be here. I like it here.”

Is his concern about logistics? Again being uprooted heading into the final year of his contract, which could mean further change is around the corner?

“No, it was more about just how much I don’t want to leave.” Doolittle said. “How much this feels like home. How much I feel like I’ve become part of the organization in only a couple of years. I feel like they’ve taken great care of me and my wife -- the community, we love being here. So more to do about the positives of being here rather than the unknown of somewhere else. The grass isn’t always greener. And I like being part of this organization, that’s all.”

June changed the words coming out of keyboards. No longer is the question about retention or dissolution. Washington’s burst back into contention has considerations about who is coming, not leaving, at the forefront. 

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Astros wade through first boo-filled night of many to come

Astros wade through first boo-filled night of many to come

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The only agreed upon factor of Saturday night’s spring training opener was affinity for Dusty Baker. 

Baker, alone at home plate to receive a ceremonial first pitch, raised his hand to the crowd when announced. Both sides cheered. Those in red stood, some shouted his name. Others on the Houston side could unabashedly applaud Baker. He represented what’s next, not what was.

But the past chased the Astros from the second the ballpark opened. Any Houston highlights were followed by hefty boos. “FOR THE H” flashed on the right-center field video board during the evening on what was supposed to be an Astros “home” game. However, there was nothing warm and fuzzy about the location for the Astros, an experience sure to track them outside of Houston throughout the season.

The Astros were booed en masse since Baker did not play any of his regulars. Myles Straw, Jeremy Pena and Taylor Jones began the game against Max Scherzer. It’s difficult to let Nos. 3, 89 and 79, respectively, have it on the first night of spring training. But, those on the team in 2017 remained safely in the dugout, prompting an expansion of targets.

Before Scherzer began his night, the Astros’ mascot, Orbit, ran across the face of the Washington dugout with an oversized Houston flag. He, too, was booed -- with fervor. Anything representing the Astros was in play since their main facets were not on the field.

Two signs carried by Nationals fans were taken by a ballpark employee. Some Washington fans banged on their seats during the game to mimic the Astros’ prior method for stealing signs. Scherzer thought something colorful had a chance to leak into the setting.

“I figured something like that was going to happen,” Scherzer said. “I got a good taste of what it’s like [when] facing [Bryce Harper] last year when we had our whole crowd going. I thought our fans would boo. I didn’t realize it was going to be that loud when I face Harp. That was a playoff atmosphere. Everything gets turned up a notch when the fans get into it.”

Scherzer threw 22 pitches, 13 for strikes in two innings. He allowed a single and struck out two batters he’s unlikely to ever face again. Otherwise, he was nonplussed to face the Astros in a game rain forced to pause, then stop, after two innings and a head-scratching delay.

“We won the World Series,” Scherzer said. “It wasn’t like I have a vendetta to hold. So, for me, over here we’re just trying to move forward and get ready for our season.”

Baker thought the reception went as expected.

“There were a lot of Nationals fans here,” Baker said. “We had a lot of fans here, too. You could tell who was for us and who was against us. All in all, it wasn’t too bad. You kind of expect to get some. But they weren’t too bad, though.”

So, the night ultimately served as the expected start. Scherzer pitched well. The Astros were booed.

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Astros booed, fans' signs taken in spring training opener against Nationals

Astros booed, fans' signs taken in spring training opener against Nationals

As if this week hadn’t already been bad enough for the Houston Astros, it got a bit worse on Saturday afternoon when they faced the Washington Nationals in the spring training opener. 

The Astros took the field at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and were welcomed by the fans with an eruption of boos. The two teams share the facility, but it was Houston's home game. 

Since 2017 Washington and Houston have shared their spring training facility in West Palm Beach and made it a tradition to kick off their respective Grapefruit League schedules against each other. They will play six times this spring - though Saturday's opener was postponed by rain after a scoreless two innings. 

One courageous fan really got into the act, holding up a sign reading "Houston *'s" that was eventually confiscated by ballpark personnel, according to the Associated Press.

If this start is any indication of what they will face throughout this season, it's going to be a long 2020 for the Astros. 

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