Things haven’t gone according to plan for the Athletics and closer Sean Doolittle this season, but here’s some good news to pass along.
Doolittle has been limited to just one appearance this season due to a partially torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder. He missed the first six weeks of the season before making his return on May 27, but he went right back on the disabled list a few days later.
While there was some question about whether Doolittle would pitch again this season, he has made solid progress of late and there were positive reports during his minor league rehab assignment. He allowed one run in four inning and struck out the side in each of his last two appearances. Jane Lee of MLB.com notes that he was sitting in the 90-92 mph range while topping out at 93 mph.
Tyler Clippard functioned as the closer while Doolittle was sidelined, but he was traded to the Mets last month. It has been a bumpy ride in the A’s bullpen since, so Doolittle could get a chance to reclaim his old job. At the very least, he could go into the offseason with some peace of mind about his health.
Doolittle, 28, owns a 2.95 ERA with 10.6 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 over 176 appearances in the majors. He saved 22 games for Oakland last season.
Now that the A’s are officially open for business following the Scott Kazmir trade Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes that closer Tyler Clippard is the next impending free agent expected to be traded away from Oakland and “perhaps as soon as Monday.”
Clippard was acquired from the Nationals this offseason to act as the A’s setup man and instead stepped into the closer role with Sean Doolittle hurt. He’s been shaky at times thanks to poor control, but Clippard has a 2.79 ERA and .175 opponents’ batting average in 39 innings and has been an elite-level reliever since 2009.
According to Slusser the interested teams include the Yankees, Mets, and Nationals, for whom Clippard pitched from 2008-2014. And he actually came up with the Yankees in 2007 as a prospect before being traded to the Nationals.
Being without All-Star closer Sean Doolittle for all but one game this season is one of many things that have gone wrong for the A’s on the way to a 44-52 record, but Doolittle hasn’t given up hope of pitching again in 2015.
On the disabled list with a shoulder injury for the second time, Doolittle told Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com:
I’ve been working so hard to get back. I have my mind set on pitching this year. Obviously we’re going to be smart with it. But it looks like there’s a really good chance I’ll be pitching this year.
Tyler Clippard has subbed for Doolittle in the closer role, but as an impending free agent the A’s may be looking to trade Clippard. If nothing else, Doolittle returning for some late-season appearances would give him and the A’s a little confidence heading into 2016 and perhaps even enough to label him as the closer again heading into the offseason.
Doolittle converted from first baseman to reliever and debuted for the A’s in 2012, first thriving as a setup man and then thriving as a closer. Overall he has a 2.95 ERA and 211/32 K/BB ratio in 180 innings, including an All-Star appearance last year.