Koda Glover was confident in his ability to fill the closer’s role from the start this season.
Asked this winter if he could handle the job if asked, Glover didn’t hesitate to say, “Yes.”
“If they throw me in that role, am I ready for it? Yeah. I’m ready for it,” Glover told reporters in December.
“But if they don’t want to do that and they want to go with somebody else, I’m perfectly fine with another role too.”
Dusty Baker didn’t rule out the possibility this Spring, though he noted that Glover, a 23-year-old, 2015 8th Round pick with limited professional experience, had struggled at the end of the 2016 campaign in late-game work and suffered a season-ending hip injury in September.
“We had Koda at the back end of games and he had a little rough time,” Baker said in Spring Training, “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.”
Coming out of Spring Training, the Nationals named Blake Treinen their closer, and when he flamed out quickly, Shawn Kelley and Glover were named co-closers.
Kelley has struggled all season, however, missing time with a lower back issue, and missing his spots regularly, leading to a lot of hard contact and home runs early in 2017.
Glover had a recurrence of his hip issue which landed him on the DL too, but since he’s returned, he’s looked sharper than he was at the beginning of the season, and over the last few games, his named has been called when the Nationals were leading late.
Glover earned his third save of the season, and first in a little under a month in the finale of the three-game series with the Braves in Atlanta’s SunTrust Park this past weekend, recording four outs after a solid start by Stephen Strasburg.
Baker was asked after that game if the fact that he turned to Glover with two out in the eighth was a good sign that the hard-throwing young right-hander had earned a shot at the closer’s role.
“Well, right now he’s the most durable,” Baker said, “... and he throws strikes and Kelley wasn’t available today after going two innings. Everybody wanted him to be closer, but a closer has to throw 3-4 days in a row. So, a lot of it relies on Koda’s health and he wants it and we’re willing to give it to him just as long as he keeps doing the job.”
The Nationals had a 5-1 lead over the Seattle Mariners after eight last night, so it was a non-save situation, but Baker sent the right-hander out again for a dominant inning of work in which Glover was throwing 93-to-94 mph sliders and 97-to-98 mph fastballs in a quick, 13-pitch, 1-2-3 frame.
Here’s what Baker had to say after the game when asked again if he was ready to name Glover the closer.
“Koda was kind of lobbying for that in the first place, but we wanted to kind of break him in slowly, because this guy — shoot, he’s what? A year and a half out of college?”
“He had said that that’s the job he wanted,” Baker continued, “and so it’s his now, he’s very calm, he throws strikes, he throws quality strikes and he has a pretty good idea what he’s doing, for a young pitcher.”
If he keeps throwing filth like the stuff you can watch below, the Nationals might be able to start searching for depth in the pen instead of a closer-type reliever: