WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - An MRI of Koda Glover’s elbow revealed a forearm strain but no ligament damage, the reliever said this morning, though he will be shut down from throwing for now while the Nationals map out a plan to try to keep their oft-injured right-hander healthy at last.
“Just a forearm strain,” Glover said. “Nothing crazy. UCL was great. That’s good news. It’s just one of them things where we think maybe some weakness in there or some fatigue. But I’ll be fine. I’m really not that worried about it at all.”
Glover clearly was relieved the MRI did not reveal major structural damage to his arm, but if his “not that worried” refrain sounds familiar, it is.
Precisely 372 days ago, Glover stood in front of the exact same locker here in West Palm Beach and offered a similar outlook on the shoulder injury that cropped up during his first bullpen session of the spring.
“Do I look worried?” he said on Feb. 19, 2018. “I’m not worried. I’ll be fine. I’m fine.”
Though an MRI back then showed only inflammation in his shoulder, Glover wound up stuck in Florida for the first half of the season. He finally reached Triple-A Syracuse in July and then Washington in August.
The 25-year-old had been genuinely excited about his physical health as he reported to camp this spring, insisting his arm was stronger than it had been in several years thanks in part to a new offseason program that - at the advice of Max Scherzer - included more throwing throughout the winter.
But then Glover took the mound for his first game appearance of the spring on Sunday, and within a matter of a few pitches it became clear something was off. He wound up facing four batters, walking the last three, before pitching coach Derek Lilliquist came out to check on him.
“We’ve talked about it: I’ve been feeling the best I’ve felt in two years,” he said. “And the ball was coming out great getting loose. First pitch, it was coming out hot. It happened on one pitch, a changeup. I don’t know if I threw it wrong, whatever. But then after that, it kept getting more and more stiff, so we shut it down. We’re being smart.”
Though Glover’s injury troubles since reaching the majors in 2016 have mostly involved his shoulder, he did have Tommy John surgery when he was in college. He says he hadn’t experienced any elbow problems since then, until Sunday’s game in Jupiter.
“Y’all seen how the game went,” he said. “I had no command. Velo was down. And the stiffness was there. That’s a clear indication that we needed to shut it down and re-evaluate things.”
The Nationals will give Glover’s arm time to rest, after which they’ll devise a plan to ramp him back up. Given his history, they’ll be challenged to keep him on a slow and steady pace.
“With Koda’s history, we want to make sure that it’s right, and for his mindset as well,” manager Davey Martinez said. “The biggest thing for me - and you guys know Koda - he’s all-in 24 hours a day. So you just kind of want to make sure he does everything properly and we go through all the channels before we get him back on the mound.”
Glover insists he’ll follow the team’s plan. He’s been through this too many times before. He doesn’t want to subject himself to yet another long rehab stint in Florida while the rest of the team heads north for the season.
“I’ve learned at this point how to deal with this stuff,” he said. “That’s what I was talking about, learning from these older guys: When to shut it down, when to be smart. So that’s what we’re doing. I think I’ll be ready for the season, no doubt. I’m not worried about it at all.”