Posted on July 22, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Washington Nationals just can’t seem to escape the injuries that have hindered them all season. What looked like a short-term injury for closer Sean Doolittle has turned into something a little more serious. A recent MRI revealed that Doolittle has a stress fracture in his foot. He will remain on the DL for the time being with no set timetable for when he’ll be able to return.
Doolittle initially went to the DL on July 10 with inflammation in his left big toe. He suffered the injury when he tripped on the mound. The injury kept him from being able to play in last week’s All-Star Game. However, the Nationals were hopeful Doolittle would be able to return soon after the break and help them make a strong second-half push. But that will not be the case after Doolittle’s MRI revealed the injury is more serious than first thought.
The MRI Doolittle had when he first suffered the injury didn’t reveal a stress fracture. But after pain in his foot lingered after throwing a bullpen session on Friday, a follow-up MRI revealed a lot more than inflammation. While it’s an obvious setback, Doolittle views it as a positive.
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“It’s a good thing we got another one because if it develops into a stress fracture, that’s a lot of time (to heal). That’s something you really want to try to avoid.,” said Doolittle. “I really just have to let it calm down and basically treat it like a bruise, let it calm down and let it heal.”
Doolittle added that his recovery will be weeks rather than months. But with just over two months left in the season, time is starting to run out on the Nationals. They also have a lot of work to do to catch up to both the Phillies and Braves in the NL East. Washington began Sunday 6.5 games out in the division and six games from a wild-card spot.
With Doolittle still on the shelf, the Nationals will continue to rely on the bullpen trio of Kelvin Herrera, Ryan Madson, and Brandon Kintzler. Herrera, acquired in a trade last month, has a modest 4.22 ERA since coming to Washington. Madson has had a down season, posting a 4.98 ERA. Finally, Kintzler has been solid but unspectacular with a 3.72 ERA this year.
“In this point of the season, with everything that’s going on, to not be able to help is a really frustrating feeling,” says Doolittle. “I want to be there with my guys. I feel like I place a burden on the bullpen by not being with them.”
Now that the Nationals know Doolittle won’t be returning right away, they may be inclined to explore the trade market for a reliever. Unfortunately, both Brad Hand and Jeurys Familia are off the market. There are fewer options available and plenty of teams interested in adding bullpen help, so making a deal won’t be easy.
However, this could be Washington’s last chance to make a serious playoff run with their current crop of players. They may be inclined to do whatever is necessary to be part of the playoff hunt in September. If Doolittle isn’t available for several more weeks, the climb back to contention will be more difficult, making the Nationals more desperate to bring in outside help.