The Nationals placed closer Sean Doolittle on the 10-day injured list with a case of right knee tendinitis, according to an official report on Sunday. In a corresponding move, right-handed reliever Kyle McGowin has been recalled from Double-A Harrisburg to give the club some added depth in the bullpen.
The IL assignment comes on the heels of a particularly brutal loss to the Brewers, one in which the Nationals battled through 14 innings and eventually lost, 15-14, on an Eric Thames go-ahead home run. Five innings earlier, Doolittle had blown the save after kicking off the ninth inning with a home run to Christian Yelich, a double to Keston Hiura, and two more back-to-back homers to Mike Moustakas and Ryan Braun. It marked Doolittle’s sixth blown save of the year and the second outing in which he’s given up four runs this month, bringing his totals to an unsightly 12.86 ERA, 2.5 BB/9, and 6.4 SO/9 in August.
Following Saturday’s disappointing performance, Doolittle expressed his frustration with his inability to replicate the results that made him such a consistent force for the Nationals over the past several months. Per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier:
We keep trying to go back to the drawing board,” Doolittle said. “We’re watching film. We’re looking at the metrics. I’m doing extra dry work before games. We’ve changed up a lot of my routine in the weight room and my maintenance programs and stuff. I don’t know, it just wasn’t coming out tonight. And that part of the order, that team, there’s really nowhere to hide.
While the severity of Doolittle’s injury, if that is indeed the root of his problems, has yet to be disclosed, it’s clear the 32-year-old lefty will benefit from some time on the bench. When he returns, he’ll do so in hopes of improving a 4.33 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 10.2 SO/9, and 0.6 fWAR across 52 innings.
Until then, McGowin will provide some temporary relief for the Nationals’ recently-taxed bullpen. As for the closer spot, manager Dave Martinez doesn’t appear to have named any one successor just yet, and it’s not certain that he will at any point, either. For now, Daniel Hudson seems like a logical choice in any save situation, though there’s some speculation that veteran reliever Greg Holland could step into that role as well.