Drafted out of Oklahoma State University in the 8th Round of the 2015 Draft, Koda Glover debuted in the majors in July of 2016. It was a quick rise for the Washington Nationals’ then-23-year-old, hard-throwing right-hander, whose first full season as a professional ended with a hip injury that was later diagnosed as a labrum tear.
Glover worked his way back, without undergoing surgery, but the injury issues piled up in 2017, with the hip acting up in April, and a lower back injury leading to a second DL stint in June, before a diagnosis of “severe inflammation” in his right shoulder set him back even further.
Glover tried to work his way back, but when the shoulder acted up again in mid-September, he was shut down for good, and told he would be unable to resume baseball activities until November.
It’s been a frustrating process for the now-24-year-old right-hander.
“You have no idea,” Glover told reporters at WinterFest this past weekend. “You have no idea.”
“I was very discouraged,” Glover said. “When I had my second setback in Florida, I nearly cried, because I was that upset, because I had been on the phone with Dusty the whole time and I was ready to get back going.
“But it’s a learning experience and I’ve definitely learned from it and I’m ready to get going for 2018.”
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo, who has said previously this winter that Glover could play a big role in the 2018 bullpen if he can stay healthy, talked this weekend about the rise to the majors playing a role in the injury issues the reliever has dealt with early in his big league career.
“We pushed him pretty fast,” Rizzo acknowledged. “You talk about college to the big leagues in just a little over a year, and his stuff kind of dictated that he was moved at that pace. And I always think that relievers develop faster than any other position, and I think as much as his developmental curve affected him, I think his makeup affected him, because he tried to push through things, he tried to battle through things, he wanted to be in the big leagues and wanted to pitch through some pain, and I think that ended up biting him at the end.
“That’s part of youthful baseball players. They have the John Wayne syndrome. They want to battle through things and they want to fight through things, and they don’t want to be in the training room because they think that says something about their makeup, and he’s learning. He’ll figure it out, and I think he’s going to be a real big long-term piece for us.”
Glover said he’s still learning where the line is between pitching with pain and pitching while injured.
“I think there’s a big difference in pain and trying to push through something,” Glover said. “It’s something that I’ve talked to [Stephen] Strasburg a lot about. We’ve kind of had some similar disadvantages when it comes to that stuff, but it’s one of them things where if it gets too bad you’ve got to shut it down, and that’s something that I’ve learned, you know. Dealing with the back last year, I had trainers torquing on me before the game, trying to get me going, and I think sitting out there and then getting back up kind of got it too stiff, and that ended up causing the problems. So just learning from that.”
“Koda’s going to be okay,” Strasburg said when asked about their conversations.
“He’s still trying to figure out — he’s really young, and he’s got all the ability in the world, and I think it’s just a matter of figuring out what sticks. But it’s tough at that age when you get into the big league camp for the first time, and you’re knocking on the door, your lifelong goal, you’re there, and you can see it in sight — maybe if you push a little bit harder early on, you’ll be there.”
“I just try to remind him that it’s like big picture, even if you don’t start with the team, you’ve just got to still have your eyes on the end of the year and being in your top shape and see what happens but I think he’s really chomping at the bit and he’s ready to get back out there and help this team next year.”
“We’re counting on him,” Rizzo added.
“We’re counting on him to be a guy for us, to be a factor for us, his stuff, as you’ve seen his stuff, it’s big league-ready, it’s big league stuff, his attitude, the way he attacks hitters, he’s ready, he’s not afraid, and he’s a tough dude on the mound, and when we channel that and control that, that’s part of being an experienced big league pitcher.”
“I’m there,” Glover said this weekend. “I’ve been throwing for three weeks. At first it was a little tough, but I’ve got three [physical therapists] right in rotation, and one of them told me just keep throwing and it will get better and he was right, so I’m throwing really good, threw four days before I got here, and it’s coming out really nice, I’m excited to get going.”
“Last year, coming off that hip injury and just isolating that one area, I figured heal the hip everything heals,” Glover explained, when asked what he was doing differently this winter.
“But that wasn’t the case, so, this year taking care of all of my body, doing the things I need to prepare myself for a long year, I’m making those adjustments.”
“I’ve gotten on a really strict arm care program that’s really helping me and making the adjustments, learning my body, I’m learning my body a lot more now, I’m a lot more prepared, and instead of just isolating the hip like I did last year and not really worrying about the rest of my body I’m taking care of everything.”
Will he be ready for the start of Spring Training?
“I should be 100%,” Glover said. “Knock on wood at this point. Like I said at first, I was like, ‘Man, I don’t know about this.’ But the more I’ve thrown the better it’s felt, so that’s very positive in my book, so I’m ready to go.”