Doolittle not ready yet, but Nats believe he's close to returning

The Nationals got two of their key injured players - Stephen Strasburg and Ryan Zimmerman - back from the disabled list today. They'll have to wait a bit longer for Sean Doolittle to join them on the active roster.

Doolittle, eligible to come off the 10-day disabled list today, has made significant progress in his recovery from a pinched nerve in his left foot, but he said he's not quite ready yet.

"Today was a good day," the Nats closer said. "I did some light jogging, and it was the first time I've done that. And I threw off the mound in the bullpen. I'm disappointed that I'm not ready to come off just yet, but we are making progress and moving in the right direction."

Doolittle-Delivers-White-Sidebar.jpgDoolittle has been playing catch since going on the DL last week and said his arm feels fresh. But his foot hasn't quite healed enough yet for him to feel confident fully pushing off the rubber when he delivers his pitches.

"There's good velocity on the ball coming out of my hand, but it doesn't have the life on it that I really need to be effective if I'm really going to help this team out," he said. "Over these next couple days, that's kind of the next step, being able to trust it enough to get into my mechanics the way I need to in order to be effective."

Doolittle said his foot feels "significantly better" than it did last week when he tried to throw off the bullpen mound in Pittsburgh, the painful session that prompted his placement on the DL in the first place.

He's hopeful he can avoid a minor league rehab assignment, given the fact he hasn't missed much time, but that will be dependent on his ability to ramp things up in the next few days.

One sign that the Nationals appear confident they'll have their closer back soon: They optioned Wander Suero and Trevor Gott to Triple-A Syracuse to clear roster space for Strasburg and Zimmerman. That leaves them with an unconventional six-man bullpen for the moment.

Asked how long they can continue like that, manager Davey Martinez laughed and said: "I don't think very long."

Doolittle's pending return would likely resolve that situation and give the Nationals a seven-man bullpen again.

"I really feel Doo is like right around the corner here," Martinez said. "Hopefully, it's just a matter of days, but we'll see."

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