Martinez keeping close eye on Doolittle, bullpen as season continues

The Nationals placed veteran reliever Sean Doolittle on the 10-day injured list Thursday and promoted rookie left-hander Seth Romero to the active roster.

Doolittle is suffering from right knee fatigue. Manager Davey Martinez is devising a plan of how to get his left-handed closer back 100 percent healthy over the next week or so. The hope is that with his knee returning to full strength, the velocity in his fastball will return to normal too.

doolittle-bullpen-cart-blue-sidebar.jpg"He's going to go back with us," Martinez said last night in his postgame Zoom video call. "But with protocols, anybody that is on the IL can't travel. So we will talk more (today) and see. More than likely, he will have to go to Fredericksburg. We got a medical staff there. But we will talk more to him (today) about what we are going to do. Hopefully, this is a minor thing (and) we can get him back here as soon as possible. We need him. He understands that. We need to get him right. He's a big part of that back end of the bullpen."

Romero is a first-year player, and part of that inexperience showed in his up-and-down five-out performance Thursday in the 8-2 loss to the Mets. He struck out four batters, but also walked three and gave up the Tomás Nido grand slam.

Martinez said general manager Mike Rizzo is not done searching out left-handed pitching for the bullpen leading up to the Aug. 31 trade deadline.

"I know Rizz is looking elsewhere," Martinez said. "But we will see what happens in the next few days."

Despite the injuries to Doolittle and Sam Freeman (left flexor mass strain), Martinez has been pretty pleased with how the bullpen has handled itself during the first three weeks of the season. The Nats relief corps is slightly better than middle of the pack in the National League at No. 6 in ERA (4.55) with a 3-3 record and three saves. In the seventh inning or later, relievers' ERA is 3.95 and they have allowed eight homers, which is tied for eighth in the NL. The Reds have the allowed 14 homers late in games.

"All this stuff is happening really fast," Martinez said. "Regardless of the outcome, I kind of like what I am seeing out of some of these guys. The (Kyle) Finnegans. I really liked what I saw out of Freeman, it stinks that he got hurt. I know (Ryne) Harper had a rough go at it (Wednesday, but he has done well for us. Got (Wander) Suero back. I look at Suero right now as still almost being in spring training, trying to build him up. He's going to get better. He's going to help us. Getting Will (Harris) back. These guys all know we have a shortened season, so they got to ramp it up and they got to ramp it up every day."

But with Freeman likely done for the season, Martinez is also concerned a bit about the long-term effect this quick return to baseball has on the club's relief makeup heading into 2021 and beyond.

"The conversations with these guys every day has been 24/7 because I really need to know if they are hurting," Martinez said. "We have to think of the future of this organization, too. I don't want to get somebody hurt right now, knowing that these guys are part of our future moving forward. So we have to do other things. If they need to be shut down, they have to be shut down. We got to keep an eye on all this stuff."

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