The Nationals, hoping to inch up the National League East standings, needed Glover to hold the score in place. But just weeks after being activated from the 60-day disabled list, Glover entered the 10th as the Nationals’ latest fill-in closer and gave up a two-run single in an eventual 7-5 loss.
Glover’s results have been spotty since he was recalled from Class AAA Syracuse 10 days ago: He yielded a walk-off home run last Monday in St. Louis, saved a game Thursday and followed up with Saturday’s extra-innings loss. But the 25-year-old is being asked to juggle re-acclimation to the majors while closing for a shifting, spiraling bullpen that needs to stabilize before it’s too late.
“I feel healthy for the first time in a year,” Glover said Friday afternoon, “but as far as repetition, I feel like I need more reps. I need more outings. With the reps, that’s what spring training is for, but I didn’t have spring training. So I have to get to where I want to be while also closing games. That’s more than fine with me.”
He probably will stay in that spot until the Nationals’ bullpen gets healthier. All-star closer Sean Doolittle has been on the disabled list since July 10 with a foot injury. Kelvin Herrera, his replacement at closer, has been on the disabled list since Aug. 8 with a shoulder injury. Ryan Madson, Herrera’s replacement, is on the disabled list with back pain and is rehabbing in Phoenix.
Manager Dave Martinez said Sunday that Herrera could return this week. Doolittle and Madson don’t seem to be that close. That leaves Glover to pitch the ninth, the three outs he has always wanted, as the Nationals start a stretch that will show whether hope is fleeting or flat-out false. The Nationals entered Monday night seven games back of the Braves, 6½ behind the Phillies. They are 62-63 with 37 games remaining.
“I know it’s not the Doolittles, the Herreras or the Madsons, but I’m proud of these guys,” Martinez said of his bullpen before the Nationals lost to the Marlins by 11 runs Sunday. “They don’t complain. They take the ball. They are giving us everything they got.”
When Glover started the season on the disabled list, the bullpen had a much different look. It was built around Doolittle, Madson, Brandon Kintzler, Shawn Kelley and lefty specialist Sammy Solis. None of those pitchers will be in the bullpen when the Phillies visit Washington starting Tuesday night.
Doolittle, Madson and Herrera could return this season. So could Solis, who was optioned to Syracuse after a pair of rough outings last week. Kintzler and Kelley will not; Kintzler was dealt to the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline, and Kelley was moved to Oakland not long after.
Solis’s locker is now occupied by starter Jefry Rodriguez, Kelley’s by reliever Greg Holland and Kintzler’s by Glover. The Nationals’ bullpen ERA was 3.66 at the trade deadline and has been more than a point higher since. Glover still does not feel as though he is pitching as well as he can. After he gave up that two-run single to Isaac Galloway on a high cutter Saturday, Martinez noted that Glover could throw fewer cutters and more fastballs.
“It’s about how it sounds,” Glover said of what it’s been like to be thrust into high-leverage situations at such a critical point of the season. “I mean, this is why they pay me, though. I got to get the job done at the end of the day. They count on me and I should come through for them, and I haven’t. Two times.”
Glover has never quite found consistency at the major league level, but he has long wanted to be the Nationals’ closer of the future. When he was drafted in 2015, he was asked to fill out a sheet and specify whether he preferred to be a starter or reliever. He notched eight saves last year before a string of injuries sent him into 14 months away from the Nationals. That taste of the ninth only made the setback more frustrating.
He now has the job back by default, at least for the time being, and the Nationals’ margin for error has all but disappeared.
“You kind of become the forgotten horse,” Glover said of being on the disabled list for so long. “No one remembers you, no one remembers what you’ve done, it’s all about the present. So I’m so relieved to be back, and getting the chance to close, regardless of the situation, is a great opportunity.”
Read more Nationals coverage: