Doolittle earns save, speaks on switch to jersey No. 63

Nationals closer Sean Doolittle made it official Monday that he was changing his jersey No. from 62 to No. 63 for family reasons. He did not want to get specifics as to why, citing privacy.

“(Fans) spend their hard-earned money on a shirt or jersey with my name and number on it. I think that’s really cool,” Doolittle said. “I definitely had to factor that into my decision. But at the end of the day it was just something I felt was really important to me and was something I could do for my family.”

“You know, with time I might be willing to talk about it more, but my family and I have kind of wanted to ... we are just not ready to talk about it,” Doolittle said. “It’s something that caught us super off-guard. We are still very much in kind of the healing process and I don’t really want to talk publicly about it yet. I’ve gotten incredible support from the Nationals organization. They helped me with all the travel arrangements that I needed to be away and gave me as much time as I needed, and they eased me back in when I came back. The support I’ve gotten from the guys in this room and the coaching staff. I mean everybody, the front office was incredible, so I’m very lucky to be a part of this organization.

Thumbnail image for Doolittle blue dealingjpg“They worked with me a lot, too. I have to come in tomorrow to do some promo shots, go through picture day all over again. But it was a small price to pay. They were able to scramble and get the bobblehead. Some people were asking about that on social media. We got the bobblehead straightened out. I’m excited.”

Doolittle went three-up, three-down on nine pitches for the save Monday night as the Nats beat the Yankees 5-3 at Nationals Park in their final exhibition game of spring training.

“I think everybody is excited, man. I think today was good for us,” Doolittle said. “Kind of a good dress rehearsal to get out in front of our fans in our home ballpark. There’s a little bit more energy out there, I felt like. Even though it was a little chilly, it felt good to be back in Nats Park. I think everybody is ready to go. I feel like we are kind of peaking at the right time as a group. There’s been kind of a renewed sense of optimism and purpose throughout our whole camp, so everybody’s really ready to get going.”

Doolittle had a rough outing March 16 in which he allowed five runs in the ninth inning versus the Cardinals. His fastball velocity was lower than usual. It marked the only outing out of seven in spring training in which he had allowed a run. But Monday night was a workmanlike save. He recorded two flyouts and a strikeout.

“I’m not going to turn down a nine-pitch inning. I think I threw two balls, one of which I think was a strike,” Doolittle said, smiling. “I’m happy with where I’m at. That one rough outing there was a lot to work on after that, and I think the last week at camp. Coming out of that off-day that we had on March 20, I had some really good work days, and I’m really happy with where I’m at heading into the season.”

Doolittle pinpointed what his issue was after the matchup against St. Louis. He admitted he experimented with some stuff after not quite feeling totally comfortable in previous appearances.

“It was mechanics stuff,” he said. “It was stuff that in my first four outings I was aware that I wasn’t totally quite synched up, and then that outing I tried some things that really didn’t work that well. But, hey, that’s kind of what it’s all about. And since then, I’ve been really happy with the progress I’ve made.”

Doolittle joked that the ride in to the mound on the bullpen cart was a chilly excursion on a cold March night.

“It was great. I’ve never taken it in any other time besides the summer,” Doolittle said. “I might need to bring my jacket next time. Maybe we can put the windows up? Have a seat warmer ready? We will work on it.”

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