Sean Doolittle's shot at redemption


Sean Doolittle's shot at redemption


Sean Doolittle is spring training, in the way fantasists want spring training to be. He is also the Oakland Athletics, in the way they are now always picking themselves up from some fresh disaster, bloodied yet undeterred.

Doolittle is a tale of reinvention, like so many this time of year a supplemental first round pick in 2007 by the As after an exemplary career as a first baseman and pitcher at the University of Virginia, making normal progress toward his career goal until his body snapped back at him with both force and malice.

A knee injury that cost him much of 2009 and all of 2010, then a torn tendon in his right wrist while swinging at a high fastball three days before prepping for his 2011 season in Sacramento, and suddenly his dream was not only deferred, but endangered.
He was rehabilitating the wrist to little effect and feeling more and more like an ex-player even before being a full-fledged player when Oaklands director of player development Keith Lieppmann essentially rehabilitated the parts of him that werent his wrist.

The wrist wasnt coming around, and I was starting to feel like I wasnt a part of anything and that maybe it was never going to happen, and Keith suggested I just start doing some throwing while Im rehabbing.

Doolittle signed on for anything that felt like baseball, and while he kept thinking the other show would drop, it didnt. His left arm got stronger while his right wrist remained stubbornly resistant to persuasion, and before long it occurred to him and Lieppmann that the pitching that made him so desirable a player at UVA might be his ticket out of medical hell and a cubicle future.

So he is in camp again, this time as a left-handed reliever hoping to make a club with a potentially large number of vacancies in his new specialty left-handed long man.

And there is no bat in his locker, for any number of valid temporal and psychological reasons. The bat is not only the instrument of his last and most formative career lurch, but a needless space-taker in a locker that hasnt the room for nostalgia.

They say bad things come in threes, Doolittle said, slightly twisting the analogy, and Ive had mine. So I have a renewed sense if energy and passion for the game after all this. Not being part of it for three years has been tough for me, even to watch the games on television, so Ive had to reinvent myself, and think of everything I have to do in a completely different way.

Indeed, that impatience has forced him to aggressively learn how not to be in a hurry to make up the three years on blocks.

Ive had to reorient my thinking from being a seven- to nine-inning guy to being a one- or two-inning reliever, he said. I have no real idea what to expect that way, so its sort of like my first big league camp again. The one thing I have learned for sure is never to take anything for granted again.

Most reinvention tales dont end well the leap from one calling to the other is typically too large, and stories like Doolittles dont have the desired ending for anyone. But these are the As, a team that is currently in one of its frequent fist-catching stages. The pitching staff is almost a night at the Improv, with anyone with a good story and sufficient arm strength is in the discussion.

But Doolittle has the advantage of being a new old guy in a room full of them. Pitching coach Curt Young is back after a year in the maelstrom of Boston, but manager Bob Melvin is opening his first spring training in Oakland with room in his bullpen to exercise his most creative notions, should he choose to have them.

Perhaps like Doolittle. His chances of making the team are minimal, as he has never pitched in the minor leagues, and between Brian Fuentes, Grant Balfour, Joey Devine, Fautino De Los Santos, Jerry Blevins and Koji Uehara (ifwhen the As get him), the opportunities arent readily evident.

Still a man working on Life Number Four can afford to dream. After all, what could be better for the As in this, their sixth year of transition, than to have a metaphor for their current state of affairs in the clubhouse every day, reminding everyone of who and what they are, and what they could eventually become just by sitting in front of his bat-free locker?

Reigning AL MVP Trout to undergo thumb surgery, out 6-8 weeks

Reigning AL MVP Trout to undergo thumb surgery, out 6-8 weeks

ANAHEIM -- Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout has a torn ligament in his left thumb and will have surgery Wednesday that is expected to sideline him between six to eight weeks.

The Angels put the reigning AL MVP on the disabled list Monday for the first time in his career. The outfielder hurt himself a day earlier making a headfirst slide to steal second base in Miami.

At 25, Trout already is a two-time AL MVP. He is hitting .337 and has 16 home runs, second most in the majors.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler said an MRI revealed the tear. Team doctor Steve Shin arrived in Anaheim later Monday night, met with Trout and it was determined surgery was his best option.

"It was news no player wants to hear," Eppler said. "He's been put in a tough spot and it's something he's still digesting."

The Angels lost shortstop Andrelton Simmons to a similar thumb injury last season. He had surgery and was out slightly over five weeks.

Los Angeles was 26-28 going Monday night's game at home against Atlanta, and the lineup recently missed ailing slugger Albert Pujols.

Trout made his major league debut by playing 40 games for the Angels in 2011. Since then, he's been a five-time All-Star and has finished in the top two in the AL MVP all five seasons.

A year after hitting .315 with a .441 on-base percentage, 29 home runs, 100 RBIs and 30 steals, Trout was off to a dynamic start. He was leading the league in on-base percentage (.461) and slugging percentage (.742) when he was hurt.

"It's really hard to quantify (his loss)," Eppler said. "We're going to feel that impact and it's going to require multiple people stepping up in his absence. The team will fight as it always does. But he's in the heart of the order and a leader in the dugout. Those are tough to absorb."

Dodgers infielder weighs in on Harper's errant helmet throw

Dodgers infielder weighs in on Harper's errant helmet throw

Before the right hooks and haymakers, there was the helmet toss.

A very bad helmet toss.

As he made his way to the mound after getting hit by a pitch on Monday afternoon, Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper attempted to throw his helmet at Giants reliever Hunter Strickland. He missed by a wide margin.

Observers took notice, including Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner.

"What was worse, Harper's helmet throw or 50 Cents first pitch? Heads up in the #McCoveyCove," Turner tweeted shortly after the brawl between the Giants and Nationals.

Turner is referring to a ceremonial first pitch thrown by rapper 50 Cent prior to a Mets game in 2014.

Harper mentioned the helmet when addressing the situation after the game.

"I was trying to go after him, with the helmet or with myself, just doing what I needed to do keep it going, I guess," Harper told reporters.