Doolittle appeared to injure his oblique on a pitch to Nick Markakis in the top of the ninth of Thursday night's 7-6 loss to the Braves and left the game.
With a little over two weeks remaining, the apparently significant strain likely spells the end of the season for Doolittle. Martinez said that thinking about Doolittle as a player and a person kept him awake last night, knowing how hard the southpaw had worked to get back from the right knee fatigue that sidelined him for a few weeks.
"Awful," Martinez said during today's Zoom pregame video session with reporters. "I talked to him last night before I left. Sat up last night thinking about him for a few hours. He was coming back. He was doing well. We went through a lot this year with him knowing that he wanted to help us win and he wanted to get back to his form. We felt like he was there. This just stinks for him and for us. I hope that he recovers, gets better and continues to do what he does, because he is going to be the pitcher that he was before. I know that. He's worked so hard to get back there.
After missing 20 days, Doolittle returned to pitching Aug. 30. With each appearance, the left-hander looked to be returning at a steady pace to the form that made him one of the most lethal closers in the game. He had made five straight scoreless appearances, then the oblique injury last night.
"For me, it's part of this crazy year, it really is," Martinez said. "Because here's a guy that takes unbelievable care of himself. Anybody that stretches more than him or works out more than him, I can't see it. Definitely one of those guys that puts the time and effort in to make sure that he is ready every day."
MASN cameras showed Doolittle early in the game last night, working his arms with resistance bands as he prepared for a potential appearance.
Now, the Nats turn to Braymer. The left-hander made his big league debut on Aug. 28 against the Red Sox, allowing one run on four hits in 1 1/3 innings. He walked one and struck out one. Martinez said it will not just be Braymer who is responsible for getting left-handed batters out.
"Right now, I view him as being a long relief kind of guy, but we can also use him in spurts to get lefties out," Martinez said. "We will see what happens. For me, I like Wander Suero against left-handed hitters, Will Harris with his cutter against left-handed hitters. So, these other guys are going to have to step up a little bit here and fill the void."
Doolittle joins veteran slugger Howie Kendrick on the injured list. The postseason hitting hero from 2019 is out with a left hamstring strain.
At the end of the call, Martinez was asked if he had thought about what it would be like next season with the possibility the Nats would not have either Doolittle or Kendrick on the roster. The Nats picked up the club option in the final year of Doolittle's deal this season, while Kendrick still has a mutual option available for 2021.
"I try not to think about it because it is sad," Martinez said. He then paused for several seconds as the emotion of that thought got to him.
"Right now, I don't want to think about it. As you know, I love these guys."