WASHINGTON -- Sean Doolittle's friends were elated when the Athletics traded the lefty to the Nationals in July. But not only because Doolittle would have the chance to become the closer on a contending team.Doolittle and his friends are from Southern New Jersey, so they rooted for the Phillies growing
WASHINGTON -- Sean Doolittle's friends were elated when the Athletics traded the lefty to the Nationals in July. But not only because Doolittle would have the chance to become the closer on a contending team.
Doolittle and his friends are from Southern New Jersey, so they rooted for the Phillies growing up. They couldn't believe Doolittle was going to play with three members of the Phils' 2008 World Series championship team -- Ryan Madson, Jayson Werth and Joe Blanton -- in Washington.
"That was kind of like the first thing they said before they said anything about the Nationals," Doolittle said. "They were super stoked about Madson and Werth and Blanton being on the same team. They were like happy for me to be there for it."
Nine years ago, Madson, Werth and Blanton brought Philadelphia its first professional sports title since 1983. Now as veterans in different roles, the trio is continuing its friendship in the nation's capital, hoping to win another championship together.
"You play with these guys for multiple years, they become like family," Werth said. "Then you go play on a different team, and they're like enemies, but you're still family."
Werth made a special request for Madson when the righty -- the self-described jokester of the 2008 Phillies -- arrived in the Nats' clubhouse for the first time after his trade from the Athletics on July 16. Madson has transitioned into a veteran since '08, but Werth wanted him to tell his new teammates one of his funniest jokes from that season.
"I'm not going to come out the gate hot like that," Madson said. "I don't know how the whole team will respond to that. ... Now I can provide something different."
Madson was in his fifth full Major League season in 2008, serving as a setup man before becoming the closer by the end of his tenure with the Phils in '11. But he matured and gained a connection to Washington after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012.
Werth introduced Madson to Dr. Keith Pyne, who's based in New York, when Madson strained his right shoulder in 2007. Pyne helped Madson heal then and rejuvenated the California native's career after the Tommy John surgery, helping him return to baseball in '15 with the Royals.
Pyne began consulting with the Nationals in 2012, and he was promoted to the chairman of the team's medical services advisory board in '15. While playing for the Athletics in '16 and the first half of this season, Madson continued to endure elbow pain and asked the club to let him travel to New York every two or three weeks to visit Pyne.
Madson, who also uses electrical stimulation every day, wanted to play for the Nats so he'd be closer to Pyne and a training staff Werth has bragged about since he came to Washington in 2011.
Werth and Madson's connection to Pyne is one of the ways they've developed their friendship, outside of sharing a similar sense of humor.
The pair finds time to talk one-on-one frequently, even as Werth is dealing with his own injury -- a left foot wound that's sidelined him since early June. Madson has played with four teams, so he knows how difficult making a first impression can be. But Werth has lauded Madson around the clubhouse and to manager Dusty Baker.
"I heard you can trust [Madson], which is big," Baker said. "Trust is something that you really yearn for in this business. You know they're not going to be perfect every time, but you know there's a chance they'll probably be successful most of the time."
Madson and Blanton, meanwhile, have come full circle since 2008. Blanton, who shifted to the bullpen in '13, contributed to a stellar Phillies rotation in '08 that included Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer, among others.
Blanton was one of the Phillies' leaders, while Madson was still polishing his pitching arsenal. After 2008, they both played with the Angels' organization in '13 and the Royals in '15 before reuniting in the nation's capital last month.
Madson has thrived with the Nationals as a setup man, throwing nine scoreless innings with 13 strikeouts. Blanton, though, has the worst ERA of his career (7.11) after signing with Washington this past offseason. So the pair has reverted to its old habits, giving each other tips on different pitches and discussing how Blanton can find his form.
"It's like I saw [Blanton] yesterday," Madson said. "It was definitely a personality match. He's an easygoing Midwest guy. I was supposed to be born in Ohio or something."
While Madson, Werth and Blanton were close in 2008, they said the whole squad's chemistry was special. Madson, who also won a championship with the Royals in 2015, sees that same dynamic in Washington.
Certainly they would all likely play important roles in the Nats' World Series pursuit this year.
Werth, who hit .444 during the 2008 World Series, is the Nationals' most experienced hitter and hopes to return this year. Madson has helped revive a bullpen that once held the worst ERA in baseball. Blanton's production has dropped, but the 36-year-old provides the Nats a playoff-tested reliever -- a role they've lacked in past short-lived October runs.
Madson, Werth and Blanton, now veterans of their ballclub, hope to have the opportunity to add to their ring collections and send a different fan base into a frenzy.
Kyle Melnick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington.