According to a report by FanRag’s Jon Heyman last night, the Washington Nationals are “leaning” towards naming Koda Glover their closer after a winter spent pursuing a late-inning arm and a Spring-long battle to decide which pitcher from among their in-house options will handle the ninth.
“Glover has impressed Nats people with his fastball and moxie,” Heyman wrote, “... especially his moxie.”:
“‘He doesn’t give a (hoot),’ one Nats-connected person said, admiringly.”
Glover, 23, and a 2015 8th Round pick, gave up four hits and three walks in 1 2⁄3 innings of work on Friday, leaving him with a 3.72 ERA (4 ER in 9 2⁄3 IP), eight hits and one walk allowed in nine games this Spring, over which he’s struck out 12 and held opposing hitters to a .229 AVG (up from .148 before Friday’s outing).
Glover rose through the Nationals’ system quickly over his first two seasons as a pro, pitching at Auburn in the New York/Penn League and Low-A Hagerstown in 2015, and High-A Potomac, Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse in 2016 before he was called up to make his MLB debut last summer.
He posted a combined 2.18 ERA with 14 walks and 52 Ks in 45 ⅓ innings between the three affiliates, and a 5.03 ERA, seven walks and 16 Ks in 19 2⁄3 innings with the Nats before he was shut down with what was diagnosed as a torn labrum in his hip.
Glover closed out 13 games in the minors, but has yet to earn his first major league save.
Dusty Baker talked early this Spring about what he saw from Glover last season before the injury shut him down.
“We had Koda at the back end of games and he had a little rough time,” Baker said, “and so — everybody is going to have a rough time, it’s just how you respond to that rough time. That’s big.
“I’ve seen guys get a lot better. I’ve seen guys that can’t handle it. I know about Koda, I know he’s not afraid, but is he too bold? See sometimes you can be too bold too, but he’s at a point -- he’s young, and he definitely has the stuff and who knows, man.”
Heyman noted in last night’s report that there are, “... still 10 days to go and things can change, but Nats people don’t believe Glover’s gutsy ways will change, so it appears he has the inside track.”
Baker “hinted” this morning that the Nationals have made a decision, though he said that they have not yet told the pitcher they’ve decided upon:
Dusty suggested they've picked a closer. But they haven't told him yet. So they aren't telling us yet, either.— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) March 25, 2017
Dusty said they've pretty much settled on a closer, but haven't told that guy who it is.— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) March 25, 2017
Dusty says the Nats have basically chosen their closer, but they have not told the guy.— Jamal Collier (@JamalCollier) March 25, 2017
Glover, Blake Treinen and Shawn Kelley were widely considered to be the top three candidates for the job.
Treinen has tossed four scoreless innings this Spring, striking out eight and allowing just one hit.
Kelley has thrown 5 2⁄3 innings in Grapefruit League action, giving up six hits, a walk and one earned run while striking out six.
The Nats pursued a number of high-end relievers this winter, making offers to both Mark Melancon and Kenley Jansen and reportedly exploring a number of trades.
GM Mike Rizzo told MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette last week that they turned to exploring their in-house options early this offseason after missing out on their top targets.
“We felt that ever since early in the offseason when we didn’t get one of the big three closers. So we feel that he’s here, we’ll figure out which one it is.”
When will the Nationals make the decision official? With a little over a week to go before Opening Day, this one offseason mystery will be solved soon.