An Incredible 10-month Transition
In just 10 months, Sean Doolittle has accomplished the rare feat of transforming himself from major league first baseman to pitcher. Doolittle asked the Oakland A's if he could switch from first baseman to pitcher. The A's gave him permission, and what has happened since has been nothing short of amazing. He pitched fewer minor league innings than Stephen Strasburg, and many baseball analysts feel he was just as dominant.
A former teammate of Ryan Zimmerman's at the University of Virginia, Doolittle shelved an injury –prone career as a first base prospect and, went from slim-chance pitching project, to a lefty with a major league-caliber arsenal. He managed to do this while only spending two months in the minors.
"I thought it would be more of a process than this," Doolittle, 25, said after getting brought up to the majors. "I'm just as surprised as everyone else, to be honest, that the transition has gone as smoothly as it has."
Last Tuesday, in his major league debut against the Texas Rangers, he retired all four batters he faced. Doolittle had three strikeouts, and of the 21 pitches he threw, all of them were fastballs, between 93-95 mph. In the minor leagues he had a 0.72 ERA, a .091 opponents' batting average and 45 strikeouts in just 26 innings.
Though Doolittle was an accomplished pitcher during his three years at Virginia, going 22-7 with a 2.23 ERA, the A's drafted him in 2007 (41st overall) as a first baseman. Batting .272 with 30 homers in 879 minor league at-bats, Doolittle was a promising hitter. Unfortunately, a pair of knee surgeries cost him most of the 2009 and 2010 seasons. In addition, when he was ready to come back last summer, he developed a tendon injury in his right wrist.
While rehabbing his right wrist last summer, he requested permission from the A's to start long-tossing, then if he could start throwing off a bullpen mound. Each time, the answer was yes. It didn't take very long for the A's to realize the talent they had acquired. The A's decided to send Doolittle to the Arizona Fall League, where he played well enough to earn an invitation to major league spring training camp.
"I basically missed three seasons [due to injuries] and it was hard going to the field everyday for rehab," Doolittle said. "After I made the switch, it renewed my energy for the game. And since then, I've loved every minute of it."