OAKLAND -- With talk of outfielder Coco Crisp perhaps returning sometime soon for the A’s, closer Sean Doolittle is hopeful of his own eventual return before the regular season ends.
Doolittle will throw two flat-ground sessions sometime next week, and he would get on the mound shortly after that if all goes well. The 2014 All-Star has appeared in just one game this season because of two different types of shoulder strains, but he feels it’s important for him to return to the mound at some point to face big league hitters.
“I’ve been working so hard to get back. I have my mind set on pitching this year,” Doolittle said before Wednesday’s game against Toronto. “Obviously we’re going to be smart with it. But it looks like there’s a really good chance I’ll be pitching this year.”
And, Doolittle is confident his shoulder will respond better than it did following his one and only appearance for the A’s back on May 27. After rehabbing all spring and into the season from a shoulder strain, Doolittle threw a scoreless inning against Detroit that day but then returned to the disabled list with inflammation in the subscapularis muscle.
Doolittle said he doesn’t feel he was rushed back the first time, and though the velocity was noticeably down on his fastball, he said there were no red flags saying he should not have tried returning.
But he added: “Subconsciously I may have been guarding against it. I hurt it so bad throwing in the offseason, I didn’t want to feel that way again. That resulted in some really bad habits, putting pressure on some muscles (that shouldn’t have felt pressure). To me, it looked like I was pitching with the ‘E’ break on.
“I never had any red flags or pain the first time around. The last hurdle I had was pitching in a big league game, and I wasn’t ready.”
He’s throwing with good intensity right now, and feels that this time around he’ll be more ready for major league competition.
A’s manager Bob Melvin shares the same confidence that Doolittle will return at some point this season. And from the team’s perspective, surely club officials would like to see how Doolittle looks so they can gauge whether they need to address the closer position during the offseason. Current closer Tyler Clippard will be a free agent at season’s end and has been the subject of trade rumors this month.