Programming note: For comprehensive A’s coverage from Arizona, watch SportsNet Central tonight at 7 p.m., 10:30 and midnight on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
MESA, Ariz. – Even before his “Face of MLB” battle ended, A’s closer Sean Doolittle was paying back the Oakland fan base.
Doolittle fell to Giants catcher Buster Posey in the semifinals of the online fan vote tournament put on by the MLB Network. Posey advanced to the finals against Mets third baseman David Wright.
Doolittle, one of the major leagues’ most engaging users of social media, spent an hour Monday afternoon responding individually to tweets from A’s fans to show his appreciation.
“I had a lot of fun with it. I hope the fans had as much fun as I did,” Doolittle said Tuesday morning. “Their creativity was awesome. I had so much fun.”
Now attention turns fully to the health of Doolittle’s shoulder. A’s manager Bob Melvin expects his All-Star closer to miss the start of the regular season with a slight tear of the rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder.
There’s no word yet on when Doolittle will start throwing. He said the key is regaining the necessary strength in his shoulder. Team trainers have a log with strength test results for the shoulder going back to last spring, long before his shoulder began bothering him. Doolittle said trainers want him to reach the strength level he was at pre-injury before he even picks up a ball.
Figure that the A’s will be cautious with Doolittle’s timetable once he does begin throwing. He’ll have to play catch, then graduate to long toss before eventually getting on a mound and facing hitters. Unless Doolittle begins throwing soon, it seems at least conceivable he could miss all of April given the incremental stages his throwing program will be built around.
As has been the case since he arrived at camp, Doolittle is asking trainers not to even discuss his throwing schedule with him until it’s time to begin throwing. He doesn’t want to create target dates in his mind and then get discouraged if he doesn’t reach them.
“I know what I have to do when I come in,” he said. “When I’m done, they give me a preview of what I have to do the next morning.”