Koda Glover was extraordinarily excited to be in the Nationals clubhouse this afternoon, back on an active big league roster, healthy and available to pitch for the first time in 2018. Given what the high-energy reliever has been through the last two years, can you blame him?
“You have no idea. It was way worse than Tommy John, anything like that,” he said. “But like I said, trust in the medical staff, and they did an excellent job.”
Glover, who had Tommy John surgery on his elbow before he was drafted by the Nationals in 2015, spent most of the last two seasons dealing with shoulder injuries, most notably a tear in his rotator cuff. He came to spring training believing he was good to go, then was shut down almost immediately and wound up spending months rehabbing again.
Finally this summer, the 25-year-old enjoyed a breakthrough. Thanks to changes to his maintenance program and work with the popular Cressey Sports Performance program in Florida, he began to throw without pain and saw his fastball velocity return to the mid-to-upper 90s.
The Nationals sent Glover on a minor league rehab assignment, then activated him off the disabled list and assigned him to the bullpen at Triple-A Syracuse, where he posted a 2.25 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in eight appearances.
Now he’s back in the Nats’ major league bullpen, filling the spot that opened up when fill-in closer Kelvin Herrera went on the disabled list with his own shoulder injury. He insists he’s learned from his previous ups and downs and is better prepared to keep his body healthy as he returns to regular action.
“My routine’s completely shifted,” he said. “I got with Cressey and those guys down there. On top of (Nationals strength and conditioning coach Matt Eiden) and all those guys. They’ve written up a great protocol, a great routine, and that’s what I’ve been working on.”
The Nationals are counting on Glover to make an immediate contribution. With Herrera and Sean Doolitle on the DL, and with Brandon Kintzler and Shawn Kelley having been traded in the last week, they’re short on experienced late-inning arms.
Manager Davey Martinez said he’s likely to use Glover in some “high-leverage” spots, but they’ll also need to monitor his workload and try to get the excitable reliever to manage his own energy level.
“I told him: ‘I know you’re high-energy. We need to bottle that energy and focus on whatever you were doing at Triple-A, do the same thing here,’” Martinez said. “‘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.’”
Glover is ready and eager to do whatever is asked of him. After everything he’s been through, he’s just thrilled to be pitching in the big leagues again and not rehabbing in West Palm Beach, where he admits he had to go out of his way to not lose his mind.
“I’m telling you right now, being stuck in Florida, I have never experienced something like that,” he said. “It’s bad. So there’s a lot of prayer, a lot of meditation, a lot of trying to keep me sane.”
Update: The evening got off to a promising start for the Nationals, who got a 10-pitch top of the first from Tommy Milone and then forced Mike Foltynewicz to throw 35 pitches in the bottom of the inning. But they managed only one run in that frame, ultimately stranding the bases loaded, and that felt like a net loss. Sure enough, that 1-0 lead didn’t hold up for long. Milone gave up a pair of two-out singles in the top of the second, then grooved an 0-2 fastball to Charlie Culberson, who did what he’s been doing to the Nats all too often this year. Culberson launched a three-run homer to left to put the Braves up 3-1. Culberson has eight homers this year, five of them against Nats pitching. And they aren’t done. Tyler Flowers and Ronald Acuña Jr. also took Milone deep in the top of the fourth, extending the lead to 7-1 and creating quite a hole for the Nationals to try to dig out of tonight.
Update II: Well, this game has certainly had some twists and turns, has it not? The Nats are trying to claw their way back, scoring one run in the fifth, thanks to a Culberson error, and another run in the sixth on a Harper homer. Then came the craziness, with Juan Soto getting ejected by plate umpire Greg Gibson before a pitch was thrown in his at-bat following the Harper homer. Soto had been upset with Gibson’s strike three call his previous time up, and the two had words in the batter’s box. Hitting coach Kevin Long also wound up getting ejected from the press box. So after all that, how did the Nats respond? By loading the bases and bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of Adam Eaton ... who struck out on a 3-2 breaking ball from reliever Luke Jackson. So it’s now a 7-3 game heading to the seventh, with who knows what else still in store tonight.