Doolittle enjoying All-Star festivities despite injury, Zimmerman rolls in rehab debut

Despite not being able to play in the All-Star Game because he is on the disabled list with a toe injury, Nationals closer Sean Doolittle was certainly thrilled and honored to be selected as a member of the National League team.

This week is the one-year anniversary of the trade that sent the closer from Oakland to the Nationals. So to be named to the NL squad meant a great deal to Doolittle.

“A lot. I just got traded over here a year ago, maybe a year ago yesterday,” Doolittle said. “Almost to the day. And if you would’ve told me then that I would be representing the Nationals in the All-Star Game here at Nats Park, I would have very politely told you that you were crazy. I’m so grateful for this opportunity that the organization has given me. These fans have supported me. I wish I could be out there to play in the game but it’s an incredible honor. I’m very grateful.”

Harper-Doolittle-Scherzer-Derby-sidebar.jpgDoolittle was on the field with teammate Max Scherzer watching as Bryce Harper found a way to hit 10 home runs in 90 seconds and down Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber for the Home Run Derby crown. During each timeout, Doolittle would go over to Harper with words of encouragement. Scherzer would hand him a bottle of blue Gatorade and a towel.

Scherzer said earlier in the day that being in an All-Star Game felt like a playoff game. Doolittle said seeing this kind of talent in one place for one game elevates it to an elite level that makes being invited to play in it incredibly special.

“You are going up against the best talent in the game, so in a way, yeah, it’s like a playoff game,” Doolittle said. “It’s a lot more fun, though. Well, playoffs are fun. It’s a different kind of fun, from a player’s perspective. I’m bummed I’m going to miss it. But I’m really excited to be in the dugout and the bullpen and kind of take it all in.”

Doolittle was asked about his second All-Star invite and whether, as a kid growing up in Medford Township, N.J., he dreamed about playing in a Midsummer Classic.

“Yeah, it’s really cool. It kind of slowly sinks in,” Doolittle said. “When you walk in the clubhouse for the first time and you see the jerseys, you see the lockers, you see the names above (the lockers). It’s really cool just to be a part of that. They’re some amazing talent in that locker room. Like we are talking first-ballot Hall of Famers, like guys that would be so good in any generation that baseball has ever played. Just to ... share the space with them, it’s really cool. I’m just trying to enjoy it as much as possible.”

* First baseman Ryan Zimmerman smacked an RBI double in his second at-bat Monday afternoon for high Single-A Potomac. He walked and scored a run in his first at-bat of his minor league injury-rehabilitation assignment.

Zimmerman finished 2-for-2 with a single, double, walk, three runs and an RBI. Zimmerman was a part of three double plays on defense, playing five innings. Aldrem Corredor replaced him in the top of the sixth at first base. The P-Nats came back to beat Frederick 10-7.

In case Zimmerman needs more rehab games, or the Nationals want him to play in back-to-back games, Double-A Harrisburg is home today and tomorrow. Triple-A Syracuse is also home through July 22. The Nats open the second half of the season Friday at home against the Atlanta Braves.

* Looking ahead to the Braves series, my guess would be that Stephen Strasburg will come off the disabled list to start on Friday, Gio Gonzalez on Saturday and Scherzer on Sunday. I like going righty-lefty-righty, plus Matt Wieters is back to catch Gonzalez, who has had more than a week of rest. Plus, the Nats need a confident Gonzalez to make a run for the NL East in the final 66 games. A win, or at least a solid showing against Atlanta, will help bolster his confidence.

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