WASHINGTON — The Nationals now have a quality bullpen after acquiring another reliever before Monday’s trade deadline.
In addition to All-Star closer Brandon Kintzler, acquired from the Twins for minor-league pitching prospect Tyler Watson, Washington added left-handed reliever Sean Doolittle and righty Ryan Madson in a trade with Oakland last month, three substantial upgrades which should help stabilize the bullpen and provide matchup flexibility for Dusty Baker.
“Dusty Baker’s MO has always been he loves to match up in the back end of that bullpen over the last couple of innings,” 106.7 The Fan’s Pete Medhurst told The Sports Junkies on Tuesday. “Well, now he can do it because you’ve already got [Oliver] Perez, another lefty down there in the bullpen. You can go left-right-left-right as much as you want now because you’ve got the right combination of guys in which to do it.”
Doolittle, who has experience as a fill-in closer with 36 career saves prior to joining Washington, has been featured exclusively in the ninth inning for the Nats, and already has four saves in as many opportunities, all in just six total appearances with Washington.
He’s been nearly unhittable against left-handed hitters, allowing an opponent batting average of .071, and his .214 opponent batting average against righties is more than passable.
“I think the fascinating thing is I think we’re watching the evolution of Doolittle as a closer right in front of our eyes,” Medhurst said. “And obviously his numbers against lefties are what they are, but the thing that got me was in Arizona. He’s up there against Paul Goldschmidt, who’s as good of a right-handed hitter as there is in the game, and he absolutely smoked him with a 96-mph fastball to strike him out.”
“That tells me he’s got the makeup and the stuff to do it,” he said. “The biggest thing for him is whether he’s going to remain healthy to be able to do it for a good portion of the season.”
“But now what Dusty has is he’s got options,” he said. “If he goes to Doolittle a couple nights in a row, because you play seven or eight, nine games in a row without an off-day, if you need to go to Kintzler, or you need to go to Madson, now you can go to one of those guys to close out a game and they’ve all done it.”