Doolittle, Madson provide experience, stability for bullpen
By Jeremy Vernon
CINCINNATI -- Sunday brought the Nationals plenty of reasons for excitement. For the second straight day, they put up 10-plus runs on the Reds -- this time a 14-4 drubbing that clinched the series. But they also made some serious noise before first pitch, as they acquired two veteran relievers in Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle from the Athletics in an attempt to shore up their struggling bullpen.
"We get two quality human beings, first and foremost, great teammates, guys that are experienced in what they're going to do," Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said. "We got guys that are big stuff, that have pitched at the end of baseball games. Both of them are capable of getting the final three outs. And that gives us something that will stabilize our entire bullpen."
The pair have had a fairly successful season with Oakland, combining for a 2.54 ERA over 60 2/3 innings. The Nationals had to give up two of their top 10 prospects as well as veteran arm Blake Treinen, but manager Dusty Baker said their talent was well worth the asking price.
"We needed some help, and we got two quality guys ..." he said. "[The Athletics] got what they wanted, some young players and Treinen. We had to give up Treinen, but you have to give up something to get something."
Both relievers bring something of value to a bullpen that currently ranks last in the Majors in ERA and opponent OPS. Madson, 36, has 12 years of experience and knows what it's like to pitch on the biggest of stages -- he has won two World Series, one with Philadelphia in 2008 and the other with Kansas City in 2015. He has a combined playoff ERA of 2.91 in 43 1/3 innings and appeared in three games without giving up a run in the 2015 Series.
Doolittle, 30, hasn't had the same level of team success, but he has proven an effective late option during his six-year career. He's particularly dangerous against left-handed batters. In his career, lefties have hit just .184 against him. This season, Doolittle has been perfect against left-handed batters, allowing no hits and striking out 12 in 23 at-bats.
All of this is reason to celebrate for a Nationals team that looks to challenge for a National League pennant this season.
"It's always nice to add quality players, and those guys are really good players," Washington second baseman Daniel Murphy said. "I think they're going to help our bullpen. It's unfortunate to see Blake go. He was such a great part of this team, and he's thrown the ball well for us for the time that I've been here. But I think like anything else, you don't get anything free in this game. So we had to give up a really quality piece to get two quality pieces."
But the Nationals aren't the only ones who are excited by the deal. With the opportunity to perhaps make a deep playoff run, Rizzo said both Doolittle and Madson are champing at the bit.
"I've talked to both of them," Rizzo said. "They're extremely excited about getting in the mix and pitching for a playoff contender. They're very excited about it."
Jeremy Vernon is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cincinnati and covered the Nationals on Sunday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.