The outing on Saturday night didn’t begin on the right note for Sean Doolittle. He walked the first batter he saw and then gave up a double to Sky Bolte. From there, though, things started to go his way and he locked in a little bit. He would allow a run on the night, but picked up two strikeouts in the inning of work.
“I’m much happier with that outing,” said Doolittle. “Leadoff walk, never good. You’re kind of opening up Pandora’s Box messing around with the leadoff like that, but just overall, in general I was really happy with the way the ball was coming out of my hand tonight. The changes I worked so hard on this offseason, it’s taken me a little bit to implement those in games. It’s been a process. It’s been frustrating. It’s been a little bit of a rollercoaster ride here, but everything we’ve been doing behind the scenes – on the backfields, in the bullpens has gone really well. That hasn’t transferred into results in games, but tonight I really started to feel those things I was working on and it was a big step forward for sure.”
The left-handed reliever talked about how he had developed some bad habits over the last few seasons as he was protecting himself while coming off of injuries. He had been working in the offseason to correct those issues and this outing he felt things work working for him.
“Tonight things felt much more in tempo, much better,” Doolittle said after the outing. “I think the proof was in the fastball. The velocity’s been creeping up each time I’ve been out. The late life and the vertical break seems to be improving each time out as well. We had a bunch of swings and misses tonight. It just had more life to it.”
The fastball velocity in 2020 for Sean Doolittle was just 90.7 MPH on average. The fastest pitch he threw was 92.9 MPH during the season. In 2016-19 his peak velocity during each season was 98.7, 97.5, 97.5, and 97.0. On Saturday night he was throwing 93-94 MPH according to the stadium radar gun. That’s a good sign given where his velocity was last season. While having that velocity is good to see, the pitch also had some movement on it, too.
“I was following Tuck (catcher Tucker Barnhart) the whole inning, and afterwards I came back in the dugout he said that the fastball had a different gear tonight,” said Doolittle. “He said it had a ton of that late life on it, and he said once I got into a groove he wanted to give me a chance to really lock that in and feel good about it. And we were getting ahead in counts after that double, and we were able to move the fastball around the zone effectively to get some swings and misses and get those next three guys out in a row. Obviously I’ve been working on the breaking ball a ton, but that fastball, when it’s right, because of the deception, because of the vertical break – that’s the main weapon that I use. So a night like tonight where we get a bunch of swing and misses and get some strikeouts with it, that’s really encouraging.”
Better velocity. Good movement. Swings and misses. All good things. And for Sean Doolittle, that’s got to feel nice. As things stand right now, his ERA on the spring is 24.00. Saturday night was a step in the right direction.