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Sean Doolittle is in Washington, but still not positive he won’t opt-out

Sean Doolittle is in Washington, but still not positive he won’t opt-out

WASHINGTON -- Sean Doolittle stopped his press conference to reach for his phone. He logged in, looked and then confirmed what he was about to say. His coronavirus test results from Friday were not back yet mid-day Sunday despite Doolittle already being tested again that morning. He’s frustrated.

“So, we've got to clean that up, right?” Doolittle said, rhetorically. “That's one thing that makes me a little nervous."

Sunday, with his gray cloth mask over his face and hair suggesting it was just freed from a hat, Doolittle went through his plan to play. There is no guarantee he will. He’s concerned foremost about the possibility of his wife, Eireann Dolan, who is high-risk because of a chronic lung condition, becoming sick. So, they have decided to live separately. She is in the area in case he needs her and not “half a country” away in their Chicago home. Meanwhile, he is maximizing his precautions while he feels things out at the ballpark.

“So she’s close enough where if something happens, if I get sick, even though she can’t be with me because she’s high-risk, she’ll be able to help in some way,” Doolittle said. “Bring groceries or stop by the house and make sure I have everything I need, something like that. From that standpoint, we’re feeling a little bit better about it.

“But I don’t know. So far – and we’re only three days into this – our medical staff has been doing an incredible job. I think it’s running as smoothly as it can at this point. Like a lot of players, [I think] the opt-out provisions are not great. There’s a lot of players right now trying to make decisions that might be participating in camp that aren’t 100 percent comfortable with where things are at right now. That’s kind of where I am.

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“I think I'm planning on playing, but if at any point I start to feel unsafe, if it starts to take a toll on my mental health with all these things that we have to worry about and just kind of this cloud of uncertainty hanging over everything, then I'll opt-out. But for now I've prepared for the last three months like I'm going to play. I feel ready to go.”

A handful of players -- including two of Doolittle’s teammates, Joe Ross and Ryan Zimmerman -- have chosen not to play this season. Los Angeles starter David Price decided Saturday he would not play in 2020.

And, each day brings new positive tests -- as expected. Players continue to debate what to do going forward. Doolittle wonders what news his phone is going to provide every time it rattles because of an alert.

“It’s been weird, man,” Doolittle said. “It’s been really weird. My mental health is something that I’m really going to have to stay on top of. I can already tell this is going to be a grind mentally and I might go crazy before anything else.

RELATED: TWO NATS PLAYERS TEST POSITIVE FOR COVID-19

“Like I said, there’s this cloud of uncertainty. You’re always kind of waiting for more bad news. Every time I get a text message or something on my phone throughout the day, I’m worried that it’s either going to be some kind of bad news -- like somebody in the league tested positive or somebody opted out or so-and-so broke protocols and there’s pictures of people going out on social media when they shouldn’t be. And just the regular procedures of the day. It’s a lot. It’s very, very different. And unfortunately there’s not a long period of adjustments and there’s not a lot of room for error.”

Doolittle threw from the game mound in Nationals Park on Saturday. He wore his mask most of the time he was pitching (players are not required to on the field). His usual post-session fist bump for the catcher was stifled. There was no face-to-face discussion about how his pitches were acting. He left for a spaced-out clubhouse where the water sits outside of a fridge so no one repeatedly touches a handle. Then, he went home to a different place than where his wife is, waiting for his coronavirus test results from the last three days.

This will be his life from now until at least the middle of October, if not later, should he choose to play and baseball make it that long. Both remain in question.

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Carter Kieboom breaks Ryan Zimmerman's single-game record for assists by a Nats third baseman

Carter Kieboom breaks Ryan Zimmerman's single-game record for assists by a Nats third baseman

Nationals rookie infielder Carter Kieboom set a new team record for the most infield assists by a third baseman in a game when he recorded 10 over the first eight innings against the Orioles on Friday night.

Kieboom passed Ryan Zimmerman’s record of eight assists, set “many times” according to Nationals Director of Communications Kyle Brostowitz.

Though Kieboom was shifted around the infield for most of the night, his new record comes after an offseason full of questions about his defense.

The natural shortstop is Washington’s heir apparent to Anthony Rendon, who departed for the Los Angeles Angels in free agency last offseason after seven seasons with the Nationals. Kieboom had started just nine games at third in the minor leagues before the start of this season.

He still has plenty left to prove as a major-league third baseman, but Kieboom's record did come on an eventful night for the rookie. In addition to his feat (albeit, a bit fluky of one), Kieboom went 2-4 at the plate with an RBI and two runs scored.

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Nationals pull Stephen Strasburg after 16 pitches with apparent hand injury

Nationals pull Stephen Strasburg after 16 pitches with apparent hand injury

Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg was pulled just 16 pitches into his start against the Orioles on Friday after visibly shaking his hand and wincing after several pitches.

The reigning World Series MVP missed the start of the season with a nerve issue in his throwing hand. He returned to the mound Sunday, also against Baltimore, and cruised through four innings before things fell apart in the fifth. On Wednesday, Nationals manager Davey Martinez expressed concern with how he was still feeling a tingling sensation in his hand.

“I was a little bit concerned,” Martinez said during a Zoom press conference. “We will see how he feels. Yesterday he threw a little bit. He still felt it, so we will see where he is at. It’s raining right now, so we will see if he can go out there and throw again today. But we will definitely have to keep an eye on it. It’s a weird thing. He doesn’t feel it all the time. I know he’s in the training room working with the staff and trying to get it to go away.”

Strasburg faced only three batters Friday before getting the hook. He recorded two outs around a solo home run off the bat of outfielder Anthony Santander and was replaced by right-hander Erick Fedde.

The news comes on the heels of the Nationals losing second baseman Starlin Castro to a broken wrist and announcing that lefty reliever Sam Freeman was transferred to the 60-Day Injured List.

Strasburg is in the first season of a seven-year, $245 million extension he signed with the Nationals last offseason.

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