Doolittle throwing back-to-back days, plus other updates

Sean Doolittle is making a significant step in his recovery from an elbow procedure done last year.

Rehabbing at the Nationals' facility in West Palm Beach, Doolittle will start throwing on back-to-back days, the next benchmark he’s been working toward for a while.

“Sean Doolittle is gonna go back-to-back days now,” manager Davey Martinez said during his pregame media session. “Once he does that, then we'll reassess and go from there.”

The veteran left-hander was limited to just 5 ⅓ innings in six games with the Nationals last year before being shut down with an elbow injury. After trying to just rest it, Doolittle decided to undergo a similar but less invasive procedure as Tommy John surgery with the hope that he would recover faster and be able to pitch this season.

He reported to spring training healthy on a minor league deal, but was ultimately shut down out of precaution of ramping up too fast. If Doolittle feels good after throwing back-to-back games, the Nationals could start looking to get him into game action.

However, the reports about his velocity have been mixed, according to Martinez.

“His velo's varying anywhere from 88 to 90 (mph) and then some days it's been 90 to 92,” the skipper said. “So like I said, this next test will be a pretty good one, him going back-to-back days, and see how he recovers. So we'll wait to see how that goes. And then, like I said, we'll reassess it after that.”

We’ve seen Doolittle’s velo dip that low before. Between 2017-19, he was averaging 93-94 mph. But after his heavy usage early in the 2019 season and then late during the postseason run to a World Series title, his velocity dropped to 90 mph in 2020 while he made two trips to the injured list. He was able to get it back up to 93 mph in 2021-22 before his injury last year.

It is just throwing at the spring training facility, but could be something to monitor if he joins a minor league affiliate soon.

Other injury news from Martinez …

* No significant changes with Víctor Arano (right shoulder strain), Tanner Rainey (Tommy John surgery) or Victor Robles (back spasms). Robles is still doing stretching exercises.

* Cade Cavalli (Tommy John surgery) returned to West Palm Beach after spending the weekend with the team in D.C.

* Israel Pineda was able to play in a game, and will now go on a rehab assignment with High-A Wilmington. Also at Wilmington is Jackson Tetreault (stress fracture in right scapula), who is making his first rehab start since getting injured last year.

* Cole Henry (thoracic outlet syndrome surgery) is also in Wilmington after having his rehab assignment transferred from Single-A Fredericksburg this afternoon. He pitched seven scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts over two rehab starts with the FredNats. His second was on Sunday, so his next one should come this weekend with the Blue Rocks at home.

“For me, it's about keeping him healthy throughout every start. So, so far, so good,” Martinez said. “He's in Wilmington, he threw the ball really well, by the way. So, we just got to keep him going. And I always say this for him, this is almost like spring training for him again. So we'll monitor him. We're keeping his pitch count down a little bit, even though he's up in the 70s. I think it's gonna stay like that for a little bit and hopefully he can continue to get out there every five days.”

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