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Doolittle wants to show 'best version' in FA

Lefty to hit market for first time; Nats dole out end-of-year awards
@jessicacamerato
September 27, 2020

WASHINGTON -- Sean Doolittle will be entering uncharted waters when he becomes a free agent this offseason for the first time in his nine-year Major League career. After playing for the Nationals and Athletics, he doesn’t know which uniform he will be wearing in 2021. “It’s strange. It really is

WASHINGTON -- Sean Doolittle will be entering uncharted waters when he becomes a free agent this offseason for the first time in his nine-year Major League career. After playing for the Nationals and Athletics, he doesn’t know which uniform he will be wearing in 2021.

“It’s strange. It really is strange,” Doolittle, 34, said on Sunday. “I’ve never had this feeling really going into an offseason. It’s a little bit exciting. But given the circumstances, the way that free agency has played out over the last few years, the way the pandemic and this weird COVID season that we’ve had, there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding how that might impact things as well.”

The left-handed reliever will be coming off a 2020 season sidetracked by injuries. The Nationals placed him on the 10-day injured list on Aug. 13 (retroactive to Aug. 11) with right knee fatigue after his ERA peaked at 15.00. He regained his rhythm at the alternate training site in Fredericksburg, Va., and he looked like he could finish out the year strong. But a right oblique strain landed him back on the IL on Sept. 11, ending his season -- and possibly his 3 1/2-year tenure with the Nats.

Doolittle didn’t realize until the day following his second IL placement that he would not be able to enter Nationals Park again due of safety protocols.

“I was focused on my injury at the time,” Doolittle said. “I wasn’t thinking about it in those terms yet, so I didn’t say goodbye to anybody -- the staff or any of my teammates or any of the coaching staff. That was tough, to have that sink in and just be like, ‘Yup, it’s over, and you’ll never be around this group again.’ That part has been tough.”

As he faces the unknowns of his future, Doolittle wants to put himself in the best position for success next year. To do so, he’s changing up his usual offseason plans of training in Chicago, where there is less access to facilities because of the pandemic, and is instead heading across the country to Driveline Baseball -- a data-driven training center in Seattle. Doolittle wants to show clubs around the league “the best version” of himself, wherever that takes him next.

“I want to be able to prove to teams that I’m healthy, that the version of me that came off the IL and started pitching better is who they might see in 2021,” he said. “I don’t want to just rest on my track record. I want to continue to try to improve and take the things that I learned going through that process and put them in practice and get ready for next season.”

Nationals recognized by media
The Nationals announced the winners of their fifth annual end-of-season awards, voted on by members of the local media. Juan Soto was named Nationals Player of the Year, Max Scherzer earned Pitcher of the Year honors and Doolittle was presented with the "Good Guy" Award (recognizing professional dealings with the media and for representing the team on and off the field) for the third year in a row.

“I think that’s really important for players to be able to do, to feel like they’re able to explain things and have a voice that connects them with the fans,” Doolittle said. “There’s a lot that I have to be thankful for for my time here in D.C. over the last four years, and that’s definitely one of them.”

Jessica Camerato covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @jessicacamerato, Facebook and Instagram.