In a mid-December interview, 24-year-old Washington Nationals’ reliever Koda Glover, who’s dealt with injury issues in each of his first two major league seasons, (with a torn labrum in his hip late in 2016, and then back and shoulder issues in 2017), talked about learning the difference between pitching through pain and pitching injured.
“I think there’s a big difference in pain and trying to push through something,” Koda said.
“I think my body was just so tired with the rush of getting to the big leagues,” he added.
“And then once I got there I was automatically a set-up man, and then closing last year, and I think it just might have [taken] a toll on me and with my mentality I wasn’t ready to sit down yet, so it’s learning from those things and making the adjustments.”
Glover made his debut in July of 2016, a little over a year after he was selected by the Nats in the 8th Round of the 2015 Draft.
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo acknowledged that he thought the reliever’s quick rise from the college ranks to the bullpen in Washington might have played a role in the injury issues.
“We pushed him pretty fast,” Rizzo said. “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.
“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,” Rizzo explained further.
“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 in the interview this past December that he was already throwing at that point, would be throwing off of a mound by mid-January, and, he hoped, would be 100% heading into Spring Training.
“I have no doubt unless something happens,” he said. “I’m a little superstitious, but other than that, as of right now, I will be ready, no doubt.”
Unfortunately, something happened. Reporters noticed that after three days of pitchers throwing bullpen sessions, Glover hadn’t taken the mound.
Nationals’ manager Dave Martinez was asked in his post-workout press conference with reporters on Sunday why Glover wasn’t throwing yet.
“He showed up in Spring Training with a little soreness in his right shoulder,” Martinez said. “So we’re trying to be very precautionary with him.”
Reports from West Palm Beach on Sunday, including one from MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, said Glover underwent an MRI which showed only inflammation in the shoulder.
With his injury history, and the history of trying to pitch through pain only to end up hurt, the first-year skipper said it was a positive sign that the right-hander admitted there was an issue.
“Absolutely,” Martinez said. “For him — we’re better with him on the field, obviously, but we need him to be 100%. I’m glad that he actually communicated that to us, and we’ve just got to slow him down and we told him, ‘We want you to be 100% before you go out there and start throwing your bullpens again.’
“He’s doing everything else with the team, he’s getting his PFPs in, he’s doing everything, so we’ve just got to give him some time.”
So he’s not throwing at all at this point?
“No, he’s not going to throw,” Martinez said. “Like I said, we’re going to take our time with this one and make sure he’s healthy.”
Asked if he thought Glover, who was diagnosed with severe inflammation and two strains in his rotator cuff late last September, had worked too hard and thrown too much over the winter, Martinez said it wasn’t clear.
“I know he had some bullpens before he came to camp,” Martinez explained, “How much throwing he did, we don’t know, but he did tell us that he threw some bullpens, and like I said, when he came in and said he had soreness, we just backed him down.”