It might be a couple of weeks before the Washington Nationals see Sean Doolittle return as their closer.
Although Doolittle is fresh off of his stint on the Injured List, he has to be worked back into the high-leverage role.
In an interview with 106.7 The Fan's "Grant and Danny," Doolittle revealed that he does not have any expectations on how long it will take him to get back to that intensity. However, his goal is to ease in to pitching in important spots in the ninth inning and help the Nationals in the postseason.
"The goal is to be back in that [closer] role... and regain the trust from Davey and the team," Doolittle said.
This past Sunday Doolittle saw the mound with the major-league club for the first time since going on the IL. It was a non-save situation, pitching with a six-run lead over the Marlins in the ninth inning. He was able to retire all three batters he faced, with two fly outs and a line out. The issue, however, was that four of his five strikes were from contact and not able to blow past the hitters.
Through Doolittle's comments, it appears that his recovery does not have him at normal form, yet. His timeline back may take longer than many assumed. Given where the Nationals are in the standings (+3.5 over Chicago for the first Wild Card), they can afford to take their time working him into the ninth-inning role again. That is, opposed to when the Nationals were on the could not afford to waste precious chances to climb in the postseason race.
In Doolittle's absence and rehabilitation, Daniel Hudson is the closer on the depth chart. Hudson only has stepped into the closer role as the game-clincher twice since Doolittle put on the IL. Both times he got the win, one time being a walk-off from the Nationals.
“We talked at length about [Doolittle] coming back and where he's at and we both felt that the best thing for him right now is for him to try to help us out in any way he can, which will be in lower leverage,” Martinez said on after Doolittle finished Sunday's game. “ But I told him, I said in order for us to be super-effective we need you to be that guy again.”
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