DENVER — The Washington Nationals thought they might need reinforcements for this four-game series in Colorado. They did not expect to need someone to replace Koda Glover, which they did after Glover felt a pinch in his left hip Tuesday night. The Nationals opted for the cautious approach, placing Glover on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday and activating left-hander Matt Grace to take his spot.
“We are going to need Koda for the long run because he’s never pitched a potential seven months of the season. So just trying to keep an eye on these things,” Dusty Baker said. “Cold weather probably didn’t help last night. He didn’t want to go on the DL. We think it’s best for him and what’s best for him is also what’s best for us.”
Grace knew he would need to fly west earlier this week, and flew to Colorado on Tuesday, before Glover felt the pain in his hip. The thinking was, Baker explained later, was that four games at Coors Field would probably tax the bullpen one way or another. Who knew Jacob Turner would go six innings, for example? What if Tuesday’s strange affair had gone to extra innings, or rain had forced Joe Ross into a shortened start?
“We knew that we were going to have to call a plane for him or somebody else. Syracuse to here is not that easy to get into,” Baker said. “You have to almost hedge your bet that you are going to need him. It’s not like the Atlanta Braves or something when you’re in the same town as your minor league team. That’s a definite luxury.”
So Grace flew to Denver and was activated Wednesday, which means the Nationals bullpen consists of struggling Blake Treinen and Joe Blanton, steadier Shawn Kelley, lefties Grace, Oliver Perez and Enny Romero, and emergent stalwart Matt Albers. In Grace, the Nationals add a pitcher far different from Glover in every way, most noticeably when it comes to his throwing hand. Instead of power, Grace relies on finesse. Instead of strikeouts, he is built for ground outs. Instead of Glover’s rapid rise to the majors, Grace has shuttled back and forth between Syracuse and the big leagues for three years. The 28-year-old had a 5.63 ERA in five games with the Class AAA Chiefs, but said he feels his sinker is moving well, numbers aside.
Glover, meanwhile, will hit the disabled list after 11 outings in which he pitched to a 4.15 ERA. He allowed two runs to the Rockies on Tuesday night, an outing that showed no outward signs of trouble. Glover said he felt his hip pinch on the first pitch he threw, a familiar feeling. Glover missed the last month of last season with a torn labrum in that left hip, and opted for physical therapy instead of surgery this offseason.
“I think I landed wrong or something. A little pinch in the hip. It’s just a precautionary thing,” Glover said. ” … It’s just one of those things where it’s more important late than it is early right now, so we’re just kind of focused on that.”
The stabbing pain he felt late last season left him with an offseason’s worth of treatment and he continued to feel some soreness after outings early this spring. But the injury had healed enough for the Nationals to make him their backup closer, a role more important for them than most teams because closer Shawn Kelley’s elbow is more fragile than most. Glover, who the Nationals see as a potential closer down the line, seemed likely to pitch key innings for a bullpen in flux. Nationals relievers are pitching to a 6.23 ERA, worst in the majors.
Glover cannot help them now. He will sit for 10 days, after which Glover said he is “extremely confident” his hip will be ready to go.
“I hadn’t had any problems with my hips until last night. I think it being thirty-something degrees had something to do with it,” Glover said. “But yeah, I’m extremely confident that after this I’ll get a little rest, get a little breather and be back in there.”
Here are the lineups for tonight’s game at Coors Field.