Koda Glover was thrilled standing in front of his locker inside the Washington Nationals’ clubhouse Wednesday afternoon. He was finally back in the major leagues after a six-month journey back from a mysterious shoulder injury. It was grueling. It pushed his sanity. He had never experienced anything like it. He was delighted. He just didn’t really show it.
“I’m excited,” Glover said. “This is my excited face.”
Glover’s face didn’t scream excitement. His excited face looks like his angry face, which looks like his every other face. Stonefaced is his default. But the 25-year-old Glover, once considered the Nationals’ future closer, is ecstatic to be in Washington — and far, far away from West Palm Beach, Fla., the site of his rehabilitation and, now, nightmares.
“I’m telling you right now, being stuck in Florida, I have never experienced something like that,” Glover said. “It’s bad. So there’s a lot of prayer, a lot of meditation, a lot of trying to keep me sane.”
Glover is in Washington because the Nationals placed interim closer Kelvin Herrera on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday, about 18 hours after he walked off the Nationals Park mound in the ninth inning with what he and his manager called shoulder tightness. Herrera underwent an MRI exam Wednesday morning, and the team placed him on the disabled list with a rotator cuff impingement.
“He’s got medication,” Nationals Manager Dave Martinez said. “He’s going to take three to four days and then he’ll start strengthening again. So hopefully this ain’t a real major thing and he’ll be starting to throw again maybe by the end of next week. That’s what we’re shooting for.”
Martinez’s report suggests Herrera will return this season. But the Nationals’ bullpen suddenly finds itself in a trying situation. Original closer Sean Doolittle is already on the disabled list with a stress reaction in his foot. The Nationals’ depth chart remains thin — even with signing of Greg Holland on Tuesday — after they jettisoned veteran relievers Brandon Kintzler and Shawn Kelley a week ago.
Martinez said Ryan Madson will close for now, though Madson has always been more comfortable pitching the seventh and eighth than closing. Justin Miller is a setup candidate. Martinez indicated Glover could adopt high-leverage situations immediately. Glover hasn’t thrown on back-to-back days this season, but was scheduled to for Syracuse on Wednesday after tossing a scoreless ninth Tuesday.
“They’re all doing well,” Martinez said. “It’s just a matter of picking situations where we think they’re going to succeed and get them in the game. I’ve got confidence in all those guys. It just boils down to our starting pitching getting through six or seven innings, and then we go from there.”
Glover, who pairs a 98 mph fastball with a devastating slider, has long been considered a potential closer of the future in Washington, but injuries — and Glover’s insistence on pitching through them — have hampered his brief major league career. In 2016, after reaching the majors in a year, Glover showed flashes of his potential but pitched through a left hip impingement until he was shut down in September. Last July, he was placed on the disabled list with a back injury, which evolved into a shoulder injury.
“It’s always been my mind-set,” Glover said. “It’s just what I was taught. But up here you got to be smart.”
He reported to spring training seemingly healthy — and gloating that he touched 102 mph in offseason bullpen sessions — but was immediately shut down. The Nationals said Glover was dealing with “right shoulder tendinitis,” but when asked what the injury was on Wednesday, Glover indicated he wasn’t allowed to share any details.
“I told him: ‘I know you’re high energy,’ ” Martinez said. “‘We need to bottle that energy and focus on whatever you were doing at Triple-A, do the same thing here. I don’t want you to come up here and try to throw 105 mph. Just throw strikes and get outs. That’s all I’m asking you to do: Get outs.’”
Whatever the injury was, it kept Glover from pitching in a competitive game until July. He clocked 12-hour days at the Nationals’ spring training facility until he began pitching in Gulf Coast League games. He eventually went on to pitch for Class A Potomac and then for Class AAA Syracuse, where he pitched to a 2.25 ERA in eight appearances before getting the call to the bigs. He said he was throwing 95 to 97 immediately in his first outing.
That, he said, assured him he was healthy. From there, his recovery windows shrunk from three days to two to one. He’s incorporated minor mechanical tweaks and a revamped maintenance program intended to halt his injury woes. The formula fueled his return to the major leagues, and he couldn’t be more elated.
“It takes a toll on you,” Glover said. “Especially when you’re this young and you keep having these injuries. You’re like, ‘I shouldn’t be having to deal with this yet.’ But it’s one of them things and I’m glad I’m through and it’s been a hell of a journey. But I’m finally here and I’m happy.”
Ronald Acuna Jr. CF
Ozzie Albies 2B
Freddie Freeman 1B
Nick Markakis RF
Adam Duvall LF
Johan Camargo SS
Tyler Flowers C
Charlie Culberson 3B
Mike Foltynewicz P
Adam Eaton RF
Trea Turner SS
Anthony Rendon 3B
Bryce Harper CF
Juan Soto LF
Matt Adams 1B
Daniel Murphy 2B
Matt Wieters C
Tommy Milone P
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