Sean Doolittle headed to injured list with knee tendinitis

Sean Doolittle
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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.

RHP Fairbanks, Rays agree to 3-year, $12 million contract

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Reliever Pete Fairbanks and the Tampa Bay Rays avoided arbitration when they agreed Friday to a three-year, $12 million contract that could be worth up to $24.6 million over four seasons.

The deal includes salaries of $3,666,666 this year and $3,666,667 in each of the next two seasons. The Rays have a $7 million option for 2026 with a $1 million buyout.

His 2024 and 2025 salaries could increase by $300,000 each based on games finished in the previous season: $150,000 each for 35 and 40.

Tampa Bay’s option price could increase by up to $6 million, including $4 million for appearances: $1 million each for 60 and 70 in 2025; $500,000 for 125 from 2023-25 and $1 million each for 135, 150 and 165 from 2023-25. The option price could increase by $2 million for games finished in 2025: $500,000 each for 25, 30, 35 and 40.

Fairbanks also has a $500,000 award bonus for winning the Hoffman/Rivera reliever of the year award and $200,000 for finishing second or third.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 11-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 15 saves in 111 appearances, with all but two of the outings coming out of the bullpen since being acquired by the Rays from the Texas Rangers in July 2019.

Fairbanks was 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 24 appearances last year after beginning the season on the 60-day injured list with a right lat strain.

Fairbanks made his 2022 debut on July 17 and tied for the team lead with eight saves despite being sidelined more than three months. In addition, he is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 12 career postseason appearances, all with Tampa Bay.

He had asked for a raise from $714,400 to $1.9 million when proposed arbitration salaries were exchanged Jan. 13, and the Rays had offered for $1.5 million.

Fairbanks’ agreement was announced two days after left-hander Jeffrey Springs agreed to a $31 million, four-year contract with Tampa Bay that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

Tampa Bay remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.