MESA, Ariz. -- Though Sean Doolittle will be spending much of his spring on the sidelines, his fans at least plan to keep him entertained.
The A's closer, who is expected to miss the start of the season because of a left shoulder injury, has found competition elsewhere in the meantime, via MLB Network's Face of MLB contest. And Doolittle keeps winning. On Thursday, Doolittle narrowly prevailed over Mariners ace Felix Hernandez in the quarterfinals, gaining 50.3 percent of the fans' votes.
Next, he'll go up against Giants catcher Buster Posey in the semifinals, making for a juicy battle between Bay Area rivals. Just last year, A's infielder Eric Sogard upset Posey in the contest before falling to Mets third baseman David Wright in the championship round.
Of course, many of the questions directed his way Thursday concerned his shoulder, which Doolittle deemed "a lot better." The left-hander was diagnosed with a slight rotator cuff tear in late January and received a platelet-rich plasma injection to help the inflammation and irritation.
"We had an ultrasound last week, and everything in there looks really good," Doolittle said. "Right now, it's all about getting the strength back, which is coming along just like the rest of this process. We've seen improvement pretty steadily.
"It's coming back, it just might take a couple of weeks."
Doolittle isn't concerning himself with a specific timetable, though.
"I think they have one," he said, "but I've told them that I don't really want to know, and whatever is written on the dry-erase board every day is all I'm concerned about. I've got my blinders on and I'm not looking too far ahead. It's tough in Spring Training, when you see guys ramping it up and getting ready to start the season and you still haven't picked up a ball yet. I really just want to focus on what I have to do each day."
The Face of MLB contest certainly helps pass the time.
"It's going to be insane," Doolittle said Thursday. "The fans have gone all out for all the rounds so far, and against the cross-town rival, I'm excited to see the stuff that they come up with. Hopefully they still have some creative stuff left over and haven't used up all their bullets.
"I'm having fun with it, looking at all these Photoshops. I lead a much more interesting life on Twitter thanks to those Photoshops."
Fans have Photoshopped Doolittle's mug into dozens of pictures, rallying behind their bearded closer around the clock on Twitter. The only person perhaps enjoying the frenzy more than Doolittle is his girlfriend, Eireann Dolan, who continues to help the cause with her own comedic creations.
Both were in the spotlight on Thursday morning, as Dolan's phone interview on the subject with MLB Network aired at the same time Doolittle was doing an on-camera interview inside the A's clubhouse.
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.