Reynaldo Lopez’s first stint in the big leagues was a brief one. The Nationals optioned the right-hander back to Triple-A Syracuse one day after the 22-year-old was roughed up in his major league debut.
The pitcher the club promoted to take Lopez’s spot, though, is even less experienced than the one he will replace: Koda Glover, who had his contract purchased from Syracuse to complete the 2015 draft pick’s meteoric rise through the organization’s farm system.
Glover, also 22, was an eighth-round pick out of Oklahoma State last summer. He opened this season at Single-A Potomac, only to be promoted to Double-A Harrisburg after seven scoreless appearances, then promoted again to Triple-A after 17 more outings.
“If you were to ask me if I would be where I am right now, I’d say no,” Glover said. “But luckily I’ve been blessed with opportunities that they’ve given me, all the Nats and coordinators. ... It’s been a fantastic journey, and I couldn’t be more happy about it.”
A hard-throwing, late-inning reliever, Glover owns a 2.03 ERA in 52 minor league games over the last two seasons, allowing a scant 6.3 hits per nine innings while striking out 10.8. The Nationals have been raving about him for some time, and there was thought he could reach the majors later this season (most likely September), but the combination of his performance and the club’s immediate needs sped up the timeline.
Nobody on the current big league coaching staff has seen Glover pitch before; he wasn’t in major league camp this spring. But the organization’s scouts and player development officials touted both his stuff and his demeanor on the mound.
“I asked some questions yesterday of a couple of our scouts, and also (general manager Mike) Rizzo,” manager Dusty Baker said. “Mike told me that he had really good stuff. I haven’t seen him. ... And I heard he has an attitude. I told him to keep that attitude. That’s one thing we need: attitude.”
Glover, who has Cherokee heritage and whose first name means “bear,” laughed when told what his new manager said about his reputation.
“Different people have said different things: Bulldog mentality, things that I can’t say to you,” he said. “For the most part, just keeping it on the field and stuff like that, and just keeping it professional. I think that’s gotten me to where I am.”
It remains to be seen how long Glover’s initial stint with the Nationals lasts. The club will need to add another starter for Sunday’s game against the Padres. Lopez is not eligible to be recalled for 10 days, unless he’s replacing an injured player. Joe Ross is scheduled to make a rehab start for a minor league affiliate sometime this weekend and thus isn’t expected to be ready to come off the disabled list yet.
That sets the stage for Lucas Giolito to return to the big leagues after his brief demotion. The top pitching prospect has made two minor league starts since his two mixed-bag outings for the Nationals, including 6 2/3 innings last night for Syracuse in which only one unearned run scored off him.
Baker said a decision hasn’t been made yet about Sunday’s starter.
In order for Glover’s contract to be purchased, the Nationals needed first to clear a spot on their 40-man roster. They elected to designate left-hander Nick Lee (who had a 4.54 ERA at Harrisburg) for assignment.