Help is on its way for the Washington Nationals’ beleaguered relief corps, Dusty Baker said this afternoon in his pregame press conference.
Koda Glover, on the 10-Day DL dealing with a left hip impingement, after he suffered a torn labrum in the hip last season, came out of the bullpen for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators this afternoon, tossing a scoreless, 19-pitch frame in his first rehab game.
Meanwhile, in the nation’s capital, Shawn Kelley, who was placed on the 10-Day DL with a lower back strain, tossed a 20-25-pitch simulated game against his teammates today in Nationals Park.
He told reporters he thought he’d be good to go when he’s eligible to come off the DL on Friday.
“Kelley came in, he was very happy,” Baker said this afternoon. “And I had a good report on Koda, he threw one inning, so we’re slowly, but surely getting back to normal.”
As for when Koda could potentially return to the big league bullpen?
“He told us yesterday he’ll be back soon,” Baker said. “So he wasn’t that far off, not like Kelley was, both of them could be back — possibly this weekend.”
Glover’s hip seems like a bigger concern than the lower back issues Kelley was dealing with after he was laid up with a cold over the last couple weeks, but Baker said Glover is going to have continue doing the maintenance work on his hip that he’s been doing since last season.
“You can never stop things from from popping up again,” he explained, “you just hope that it doesn’t happen. Koda was doing a lot of maintenance anyway, and Kelley, rest always seems to do him good, and so you just hope it doesn’t come up any time soon.”
Getting the co-closers back will help things settle down in the bullpen, after Baker has had to use relievers in roles they might not otherwise be in if everyone was healthy.
He talked today about how he manages relievers when they’re struggling like some of the Nats’ bullpen arms are right now. Does he take a tough love approach? Positivity?
“I think positivity No. 1,” Baker said. “I just learned from Al Rosen a long time ago, the General Manager with the [San Francisco] Giants, that you’re actually kind of tougher on the guys when things are going pretty good versus getting tough on them when they’re down. They’re already down, you don’t pour dirt on people.
“You try to give them encouragement, try to tell them what you see, try to give them something to improve on and give them something positive without lying to them. I think it would help once I get guys into roles that they’re more accustomed to and roles that they’re more likely to succeed in, versus roles that we need them in at that point in time.”
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said much the same when he discussed the current state of the bullpen with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this morning.
“We’re treading a little bit of water right now with three of our good relievers out on the disabled list and guys pitching in unfamiliar roles,” Rizzo said, referring to Kelley, Glover and Sammy Solis.
“But hey, that’s baseball, you know what I mean, we have to survive and move on until we get healthy and once we get healthy, I think we’ll take off.”