Doolittle, Aníbal (source) returning to Nationals

March 16th, 2022

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Nationals’ 2022 season already has reminders of ‘19.

Two key members of their World Series championship-winning club are set to rejoin the team. Washington announced on Wednesday that it agreed to a one-year contract with left-hander Sean Doolittle, and right-hander Aníbal Sánchez has agreed a deal with the club, a source told

Sánchez was all smiles on Monday morning as he walked out to the fields of The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Donning the No. 34 uniform, Sánchez threw off the mound in the bullpen and drew praise from manager Dave Martinez for the improved extension in his fastball. He is expected to compete for a spot in the starting rotation in what would be his 16th Major League season.

The 38-year-old last pitched in the Majors on Sept. 26, 2020, when he tossed 5 1/3 innings for the Nats in a win over the Mets. He recorded a 6.62 ERA over 11 starts during the shortened ‘20 campaign.

“He’s already said that he can pitch in a game,” Martinez said. “He’s thrown a few lives already, but he’s itching to get back. He didn’t pitch all of last year, so he’s excited. ... The ball was coming out really well. I’m excited to see what he can do.”

Sánchez was an effective member of Washington’s rotation in 2019, posting a 3.85 ERA over 30 starts in the regular season and a 2.50 ERA in three postseason outings, and he reportedly impressed teams in a recent showcase in Miami. He is expected to compete for a spot in the Nationals’ rotation. Sánchez also has pitched for the Marlins, Tigers and Braves during his Major League career, during which he has gone 112-113 with a 4.05 ERA in 1,948 1/3 innings spanning 15 seasons. He threw a no-hitter during his rookie season with the Marlins in 2006.

Doolittle pitched for the Nationals from 2017-20, posting a 3.03 ERA with 75 saves in 147 appearances. The 35-year-old opened last season with the Reds before being claimed off waivers by the Mariners in August. Although he's battled through frequent injuries, the southpaw owns a 3.23 ERA and a 5.0 K/BB ratio with 112 saves over 10 seasons. Last year, he boosted the velocity of his fastball from 90.7 mph in 2020 to 93.1 mph in ‘21.

“We have a great relationship with Doo,” said Martinez. “We know what he can do when he’s healthy, so I’m looking forward to getting him back here. Honestly, he’s one of my favorites. I can’t wait to see him again, and hopefully he gets right back on track. Last year, we kept an eye on him, we watched him get his velo back, so we definitely think he can help us.”

Doolittle and Sánchez are two of several veteran leaders the Nationals are adding to a roster that is deep with young talent. They agreed on Sunday to a deal with sought-after 41-year-old designated hitter Nelson Cruz, and they added 34-year-old outfielder Gerardo Parra as a Spring Training non-roster invitee. The recently retired Ryan Zimmerman, 37, is also in camp as of Tuesday.