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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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With trade deadline creeping, Nationals’ needs and situation remains the same

With trade deadline creeping, Nationals’ needs and situation remains the same

The Nationals left Atlanta on Sunday in the same place as they entered: 6 ½ games behind the first-place Braves.

A four-game split without Max Scherzer is palatable. A 5-4 overall road run since showing up in Philadelphia after the All-Star break is acceptable, though an easy argument could be made the results should have been better. Chances to sweep both in Philadelphia and Baltimore slipped.

What changed in the first nine games since the break? Nothing for the Nationals. They need bullpen help -- still. They remain in a solid position to make the playoffs -- still. Their health -- outside of a new heel flareup for Ryan Zimmerman -- remains decent. Scherzer’s lobbying to pitch Sunday night failed. However, he’s expected back on the mound Thursday against Colorado, which would put him on turn to face the Braves on July 30.

That Scherzer start would arrive a day before the trade deadline. This year, July 31 is it. No more post-deadline deals, no more scrapping pieces after a couple more weeks of testing the waters for a truer read on outcomes. It’s get it done by July 31.

Like their standing in the National League East, nothing changed over the weekend for the Nationals when it comes to need. They need another reliever. Probably two. And, they need to get in line.

Sunday night, reports began to percolate about Boston being interested in San Diego closer Kirby Yates and Toronto closer Ken Giles. The Red Sox are 11 games out of first place and three games out of the wild card. They, of course, are traditionally a go-for-it organization in such instances. As are the Nationals. The questions will be who else is joining them to drive prices and who will be willing to pay them.

Take Yates. He’s the National League’s best closer this season. He is ultra-low-cost. The salary-tracking site Spotrac pegs him as the best relief bargain in baseball. San Diego has another year of control and expects to improve next year. Is he someone it really trades? If so, how epic is the cost? Would the Nationals ever meet it with a higher-end prospect out of a sagging farm system?

What is San Francisco thinking now? It’s 2 ½ games out of a wild-card spot. It is suddenly -- somehow -- a .500 baseball team with 50 wins. The Giants are 22-10 in one-run games. That typically represents two things: a good bullpen and unsustainable results. The Giants’ bullpen has the seventh-best ERA in baseball. Three of the teams ahead of them currently hold a playoff spot. None of the other three are more than a game out of a playoff spot. The group is legit and seemed to be the basis of a pending sell-off from San Francisco (along with, possibly, Madison Bumgarner). But, now? They have to decide, and everyone waits.

Among the Giants’ would-be trade pieces is closer Will Smith. He has moved from a decent reliever to an excellent one the last two seasons. He knew at the All-Star break what might be ahead for him. Smith was the Giants’ lone member of the National League All-Star team.

“I don’t really pay attention to [trade rumors],” Smith told NBC Sports Washington. “I think that’s a distraction, kind of.... I don’t try to think too much into it, really. I play for the Giants right now. I’m going to play as hard as I can for as long as they want me to. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, oh well, I still get to play baseball. It’s kind of a win-win for me.”

Smith has been traded four times. The first time was as a 21-year-old minor-leaguer. He was stunned and disappointed. 

“I thought I was in trouble,” Smith said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

By now, he’s moved to a more Zen approach.

“Now -- the whole control what you can control, it really applies to this,” Smith said. “There’s nothing you can do about this, so why even try to drive yourself crazy.”

The potential playoff pile has tempered movement. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo acquired reliever Kelvin Herrera on June 18 last year. Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson arrived on July 16, 2017. If he can, Rizzo has shown a willingness to pull in problem-solvers well before the deadline. If pushed to the edge, like he was for Mark Melancon on July 30, 2016, he’ll move then, too. He’s yet to find a bullpen solution this year -- just like everyone else.

Yates, Smith, Giles and Detroit’s Shane Greene are assumed to be destined for new teams.  Four teams are within 2 1/2 games of the National League’s second wild-card spot. Washington holds the top spot by a mere half-game. Demand is high. Stock is low. Going for may get you in. Holding may send you home. In those ways, nothing has changed for the Nationals.

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Washington Nationals Roundup: Ryan Zimmerman re-injures right foot in loss to Braves

Washington Nationals Roundup: Ryan Zimmerman re-injures right foot in loss to Braves

Though the Washington Nationals lost to the Atlanta Braves on Sunday night, Washington took home the series 2-1 and remains atop the NL Wild Card race. 

Check out the latest news and notes surrounding the Nationals.

Player Notes: 

SP Max Scherzer, who had been out of the rotation since July 13 with a back strain, is on track to return to the mound later this week. The right-hander is set to throw a full bullpen Monday, and baring any setbacks is likely to be cleared to start Thursday. 

Though the Nationals fell 7-1 to the Braves on Sunday, catcher Kurt Suzuki amounted for a third of Washington's offense (which only put up six hits). Suzuki went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles, the only player to have a multi-hit game.

SP Joe Ross suffered his second loss of the season Sunday night, when he went 5 1/3 innings and gave up three runs on eight hits, though he struck out six. Washignton recalled the right-hander from Triple-A Fresno to start in place of RHP Austin Voth, who was placed on the 10-day inured list with right biceps tendinitis retroactive to Thursday, July 18. 

1B Ryan Zimmerman exited the game early on Sunday, after he re-injured his right foot. Throughout this season Zimmerman has battled plantar fasciitis in his right foot, which caused him to miss two months of play earlier this year. 

Injuries: 

SP Austin Voth: Shoulder, 10-Day IL, status uncertain

1B Ryan Zimmerman: Foot, sidelined, status uncertain

SP Max Scherzer: Back, 10-Day IL, out until late July

RP Jonny Venters: Shoulder, 10-Day IL, out indefinitely 

SP Jeremy Hellickson: Shoulder, 60-Day IL, out indefinitely 

RP Justin Miller: Shoulder, 10-Day IL, out until mid-July 

RP Koda Glover: Elbow, 60-Day IL, out indefinitely 

RP Austen Williams: Shoulder, 10-Day IL, out indefinitely 

Coming Up:

Monday 7/22:  Nationals vs. Rockies, 7:05 p.m., Nationals Park

Tuesday 7/23:  Nationals vs. Rockies, 7:05 p.m., Nationals Park

Wednesday 7/24: Nationals vs. Rockies, 7:05 p.m., Nationals Park

Source: Rotoworld

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