Doolittle: Labels don’t matter; whatever it takes to win

Chris Lingebach
September 04, 2019 - 4:09 pm
Doolittle: Labels don’t matter; whatever it takes to win

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe you've noticed something special about this Nationals club, beyond them maintaining the best record in baseball since May 24, when they turned the corner from a horrific 19-31 start.

Beyond their grind-every-at-bat mentality, which affords opportunities like the one that arrived Tuesday night, when the Nats overcame a six-run ninth-inning deficit to beat the Mets.

The Nationals lineup, outside of young superstars Juan Soto and Victor Robles, is littered with grizzled, experienced veterans willing to take lesser roles than they're accustomed for the betterment of the club. Sean Doolittle is another veteran suddenly facing a different role. The 32-year-old closer has yet to be used in a save situation since returning from a stint on the 10-day Injured List.

Manager Dave Martinez has said Doolittle will be used in lower leverage situations for the time being, working his way back in less stressful innings until he returns to peak form. Doolittle, like his offensive counterparts, is fine with this scenario. Whatever it takes to keep winning ball games.

"The goal for me is to be back in that role, is to be pitching well enough that I've kind of regained the trust of Davey and the team that I'm the guy for ya at the back end of the games," Doolittle told 106.7 The Fan's Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier during his weekly appearance, presented by Lindsay Volvo Cars of Alexandria.

"I think we're definitely moving in that direction," he said. "If I'm thinking about what's best for the team right now in the short term, I think I still need to make some improvements and continue this process before I get back into that spot. But once you've pitched in that spot for a little bit, and you've held onto the closer role and you know what it's like closing games, you want that adrenaline rush, you want to be in that spot. I'm working to get back there."tf

Doolittle made his first appearance for the Nationals since returning from the IL on Sunday, still pitching in the ninth inning, but coming into a 9-3 ball game. He quickly retired the side with an easy 1-2-3 inning to secure the win over the Marlins.

"As far as big picture goes, you mentioned down the line, I think we've gotta be willing to do kind of whatever we can to win ball games," Doolittle said. "It doesn't matter who has what label or what innings they're pitching in. I think one of the things that's made us so successful as a team is that guys have really bought into that philosophy, that team-first philosophy."

"You think about guys like Howie Kendrick, who probably are very good enough to be hitting in the middle of a lineup every single day," he said. "And he's willing to come off the bench and he's totally embraced that role, right? And he's been an incredible weapon for us and one of the big reasons why our offense is able to put up the runs that it has.

"There's guys like that – (Gerardo) Parra, Asdrubal (Cabrera) coming over right now – guys that are willing to, not necessarily take a step back, but embrace whatever role that they're given to help the team win. I'm willing to do that. Like I said, I hope I get back to that point, I plan on getting back to that point of dominating at the back end of a game, but we're still working our way back there right now."

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