Doolittle throws first bullpen session, Garrett goes on IL

PHILADELPHIA – It was only 15 pitches, all fastballs, thrown with care off the bullpen mound at Citizens Bank Park this afternoon. But for Sean Doolittle, it was the most significant step yet in his attempted return from a sprained elbow ligament.

And the fact he came out of today’s session feeling strong physically was reason enough for Doolittle to remain optimistic about the rest of his long rehab process.

“The first one, you really just want to come out of it feeling OK,” the Nationals reliever said. “It’s a little bit like spring training. I haven’t thrown off a mound in three months. … I was really happy with how my body was moving. The execution was a little rusty, for sure. But the ball was coming out of my hand good. All around, pretty good.”

Since landing on the injured list in mid-April after only five appearances to begin the season, Doolittle has been waiting to get back to this point again. He knew at the time the partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament could eventually require Tommy John surgery, but his decision to get a platelet-rich plasma injection and then slowly build his arm back up after a requisite period of rest seems to have worked to this point.

There are still several more significant steps for Doolittle to take. He’s scheduled to throw another bullpen session either Sunday or Monday, still sticking with fastballs only, before adding off-speed pitches his next session after that. At some point after that, he’ll be cleared to face live hitters again, then go a minor league rehab assignment.

There’s no guarantee the 35-year-old makes it all the way back, but he’s as confident as he can be right now that he’ll be on the mound pitching in a game for the Nationals again in 2022.

“I’ve tried not to think about it too much, because once I made that decision (to get the PRP injection) I had no regrets,” Doolittle said. “I’m going to put my head down and do everything I can. But if I’m trying to be objective about it, yeah, I am. The decision we made gives me a chance to pitch this year and be a part of this team. I know I’m in the right place. I have the right training staff. I have the right team doctors. I have the right strength coaches to give me the best chance for that decision to be the right one, the most successful one.”

* The Nationals put Reed Garrett on the 15-day IL today with right biceps inflammation, a transaction made to clear a spot on the active roster for Joan Adon, who starts the series finale against the Phillies.

Garrett pitched during Tuesday night’s 11-0 loss, getting tagged for five runs over only two-thirds of an inning, throwing 44 pitches in the process. The right-hander was making his third appearance in five days after going 13 days without coming out of the bullpen at all.

In six total relief outings since his call-up from Triple-A Rochester, Garrett has an 8.22 ERA and 2.348 WHIP.

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