WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Koda Glover’s young major league career has encountered another roadblock. The Nationals right-hander, who missed most of last season with a shoulder injury, reported to spring training last week with shoulder soreness. An MRI exam revealed inflammation and he was shut down.
“We’re trying to be very [careful] with him,” Nationals Manager Dave Martinez.
If there’s one lesson Glover, a fearless 24-year-old who shot through the minors in 14 months, has learned in his brief time in the big leagues, it’s that pushing through an injury usually isn’t the best idea. He tried to during each of the past two seasons, only to end both on the disabled list, watching the Nationals play in the postseason without him.
In 2016, it was a torn labrum in his hip. Last season, he was placed on disabled list in June with what the club initially said was a back injury. Two weeks later, Glover revealed that he was dealing with a shoulder impingement, also known as rotator cuff tendinitis, which was aggravated by the sore back.
Glover, the club’s closer at the time, didn’t come off the disabled list. He finished his season with a 5.12 ERA in 19 1/3 innings. He saved eight games in 10 chances. It was a letdown for someone the Nationals have envisioned as a bullpen mainstay and a reason for Washington’s midseason bullpen reclamation.
In December, Glover, who declined to speak to the media on Sunday, emphasized he would shed the bravado and speak up when hurt. He said he talked to Stephen Strasburg about the difference between pain and injury. He did this week when he told the team his shoulder was sore after throwing bullpens on his own before reporting. That is, in itself, progress.
“I’m glad that he communicated that with us,” Martinez said. “We just got to slow him down. We told him we want him to be 100 percent before you go out there and start throwing your bullpens again. So he’s doing everything else with the team. He’s getting his ground balls, PFPs [pitchers fielding practices] in. He’s doing everything. We’re just going to give it some time.”
If he’s cleared in time this spring, Glover will compete for a role as a middle reliever. Washington re-signed Brandon Kintzler to partner with Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle at the back end of the bullpen, but lost Matt Albers in free agency, leaving a vacancy.
If he can regain his previous form and stay healthy, Glover will be overqualified for the job with a fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s and a plus slider. His combination of stuff and confidence had the Nationals believing he was their closer of the future. He could still be. But he needs to get healthy first.
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