WASHINGTON, D.C. - Koda Glover injured his hip in mid-September, but tried to pitch through the pain until it became too much to take.
He made four appearances after he was hurt, giving up five hits and three earned runs, then finally admitted to Washington Nationals’ pitching coach Mike Maddux that he couldn’t keep going.
“I didn’t know that I was hurt,” the 23-year-old, 2015 8th Round pick told reporters at Nationals’ Winterfest on Saturday afternoon.
“I’ve only been hurt one [other] time, and it was a UCL, reconstructive. That’s just my mindset growing up. I was told if you’re not bleeding, you’re not hurt. I kept pushing through it and I shouldn’t have and then I finally sat down with ‘Mad Dog’ [Maddux] and stuff and then went over it, got an MRI and come to find out I had torn my labrum in my hip.”
“He’s trying to push through it, it hurts, but, ‘Man, I can go,’” Maddux said, recounting the conversations he had with the young reliever.
“And we always talk about accountability, and I tell the players that — of course Koda wasn’t in Spring Training with us, so he had to kind of learn this a little different way, but, ‘How do you feel today?’ ‘I feel good, I can pitch.’ And I say, ‘You know what, I can go out there and pitch. I ain’t going to be worth a damn, and I’m not going to help the ballclub.’ So you have to be accountable in your availability.
“‘Yeah, I can pitch today too, Koda. I can pitch, can you pitch?’ And it finally came down to, ‘I can’t help the team.’ Okay, that’s good enough for me.”
Glover felt something wrong in a September 13th game against the New York Mets.
“It’s actually on video, against [Yoenis] Cespedes, I tore it,” he explained. “I felt it then, but I continued to pitch, didn’t want to get taken out of that game and it progressively kept getting worse and in Pittsburgh it was to the point that it was making me sick. I was, every time I was landing it felt like an ice pick going into my hip. Told ‘Mad Dog’ about it, he took me out, got an MRI the next day and it was torn.”
“To Koda’s credit, where we were and the role that he was fulfilling for us, was very important,” Maddux said.
“I mean, he was getting people out, pitching way above his service time. A year ago he was in college and here we are knocking on the door to go to the postseason and he was a big part of it, big part of the late-inning bullpen that we had. Everybody had bumps and bruises. He’s young. He doesn’t know the difference between a bump, a bruise and a labral issue, you know.”
Glover debuted last July with two appearances out of the bullpen after he started his second pro season at High-A Potomac, moved up to Double-A Harrisburg and was then promoted to Triple-A Syracuse, posting a combined 2.18 ERA with 14 walks (2.78 BB/9) and 52 Ks (10.32 K/9) in 45 ⅓ innings between the three affiliates before getting the call.
He returned to the majors in mid-August and, as Maddux noted, was getting regular work out of the bullpen until he suffered the injury and started to get hit hard, though when he spoke on Saturday, he was unwilling to blame his struggles on the hip issue.
“I don’t want to say that it’s the reason why I pitched bad there late, cause it’s not, but when you’re not able to get over your front side like normal and things are aggravating you as far as that and subconsciously you’re thinking, ‘Oh, this is painful,’ instead of focusing on pitch-to-pitch, yeah, I think it affects you a little bit, so there’s a little bit to that, but it’s not why I pitched bad. I pitched bad cause I pitched bad.”
He chose not to undergo surgery, which was an option given to him if the pain wasn’t too bad during rehab, and said he will have to, “... stay on my rehab for the rest of my life or I’ll have to have a hip replacement.”
The way his season ended, Glover said, has motivated him to get back to what he was doing that earned him a relatively quick call to the majors.
“It’s actually pushing me,” he explained. “I’m not used to failing like I did there late, so mentally, I’m ready to go. I feel healthy, I feel strong, I’ll begin throwing here shortly, so we’ll really get a good grasp on it after that.”
The lesson he took from the experience? The distinction between pain and injury is an important one.
“It’s very important to know the difference and I’m still young and I know that so I’m learning from that and it’s like [Stephen] Strasburg. He knows when he’s not 100% and so he knows to tell somebody and that’s what I’m learning to do, because I’ve never been able to do that. I’ve always pitched hurt, I’ve always played hurt, that’s just how I grew up. So, it’s an adjustment, but I think I’m getting smarter and more mature about that.”