More shoulder issues limited Sean Doolittle's season -- sound familiar? He hasn't topped 40 innings in the last two years, and his rust probably contributed to him allowing a career-worst 1.38 home runs per nine innings. Of course, Doolittle showed a lot of positives. Doolittle continued whiffing batters to boost his career K/9 to 10.4, and his walk rate finished at 2.1 or lower for the fourth time in five years. He's had at least one save in every season, which makes him one of the better speculative relievers after all closers are off the board. The situation is no different this year with the A's, who has Ryan Madson and an erratic cast of characters behind him, none of whom would stand in the way of a healthy Doolittle. He owns the best skills in this bullpen, and if Doolittle stays healthy, he could match or top the 22 saves he collected in 2014.
Doolittle, who earned a hold in Tuesday's 4-3 Cactus League loss to the Rockies by tossing a perfect inning, was happy with the way he felt on the mound, Jane Lee of MLB.com reports. "It felt really good to finally get in a game and finally be out there with the guys," Doolittle said. "Take the training wheels completely off. I don't anticipate any restrictions form here on out." The southpaw induced three flyball outs and was especially pleased with his fastball command. He plans to incorporate more changeups and sliders in his next outing, which isn't yet set. "That's something we'll continue to work on as I get more outings under my belt; when to throw it, getting more comfortable with it," he said. "Today was more about getting out there, getting my feet underneath me, repeating my delivery."
Doolittle is expected to make his first Cactus League appearance Tuesday, Joe Stiglich of CSN California reports. The left-hander has been brought up slowly this spring due to the plethora of injuries he's experienced over the past two seasons, but it seems as if the Athletics are ready to remove the training wheels soon. If all goes well in Doolittle's return to game action, he should resume his prominent place in Oakland's bullpen and could even push Ryan Madson for save opportunities at some point during the regular season.
Doolittle threw 25 pitches to hitters Saturday and is likely to play in a game as the next step in his throwing program, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Everything seems to be going according to plan for Doolittle, who says he's been happy with how the throwing sessions have gone. Oakland still has plenty of Cactus League games remaining for the 30-year-old to use as preparation, so expect him to get plenty of opportunities upon his return to action.
Doolittle is throwing to hitters Wednesday and may be ready for game action soon, Jane Lee of MLB.com reports. Doolittle has been slowly working his way back from a shoulder ailment this spring and it seems he's just about ready for live game action. The left-hander posted a 3.23 ERA over 44 games in an injury-riddled 2017 season, but look for him to compete for a setup role upon his return to the mound.
Doolittle threw his first bullpen session of spring training Friday, Jane Lee of MLB.com reports. Plagued by shoulder issues over the past two seasons, Doolittle appears to be getting back on track as spring games begin. The left-hander has shown he still has potential, posting a 3.23 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and a 45:8 K:BB ratio in 44 games last year. Barring any setbacks, expect Doolittle to compete for a setup role in the Oakland bullpen when he returns to game action.