Last June, close to the end of the spectacular catastrophe that was the 2017 Washington Nationals’ bullpen, it seemed like the Nats had at least found someone to pitch the ninth.
Koda Glover, a hard throwing, knee-buckling, name-taking, [butt]-kicking righty, had taken the closer’s job with authority, ending a string of games uneventfully minus the near brawl he started with Yasiel Puig and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Days later, the Nationals picked a slew of pitchers in the draft, with Seth Romero—a flame-throwing lefty who had seen his career at the University of Houston cut short due to discipline issues surrounding a reported failed drug test and a fight with a teammate—headlining the class.
However, General Manager Mike Rizzo took a chance on Romero — not only because he thought his behavior could improve, but also because Romero likely had the talent to help the Nats down the stretch in 2017, and if not, then certainly in 2018.
“The stuff plays in the big leagues right now,” Nationals scouting director Kris Kline said.
“Big fastball. He’s got a wipeout breaking ball. Good feel for his changeup, very competitive kid, so I don’t see an issue with this kid.”
The best laid plans, unfortunately, have a tendency to go astray.
On June 11th, Koda Glover landed on the DL for what the team described as a short stint due to lower back pain — what he described as a tweak in the shower.
As it turned out, Glover had strained his rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder, and tried to pitch through it, as he had done with his hip the season before.
He attempted to ramp up in August to be ready for the remainder of the season, but suffered a setback, and his overzealousness kept him on the DL.
Glover then ramped up again in the offseason once healed.
“I’ve been throwing for three weeks,” Glover said to the press at Winterfest last December.
“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.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Glover’s gung-ho attitude didn’t work for the better — he was shut down within days of arriving at Spring Training, with shoulder inflammation.
Last the Nats checked — i.e., April 12th, per Dan Kolko — he was throwing from 75 feet.
Since then, radio silence has been the norm, even from his semi-active social media accounts.
Glover’s sample size is limited, and his career numbers are skewed from when he pitched injured in both his rookie and sophomore season. But when he was healthy, Glover’s stuff was what teammates in the clubhouse would call ‘dirty.’
Koda Glover's 94 Miles Per Hour Slider/Cutter Is One of Filthiest Pitches In Baseball.— Dr. Marc Williams (@networkingman14) June 2, 2017
How do you hit that ball?pic.twitter.com/iqicVpddr6
While you were sleeping, Koda Glover picked up his 7th save of the year. pic.twitter.com/B7pHQYlsFH— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) May 31, 2017
This year, the Nats are better off in their bullpen, with Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, Brandon Kintzler, and Sammy Solís leading the charge.
But it’s difficult to argue that the squad couldn’t use some help.
If healthy, Glover could absolutely prove an asset to the bullpen, a sixth-inning man to take some pressure off of Sammy Solís, or even fill in for Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle in the later innings.
However, his health status is completely unknown; he could be back next month, or he could be back in 2019.
Then, there’s Romero.
Romero, as hot of a personality as Glover, but perhaps less checked in other ways, pitched to a 5.40 ERA in Auburn for the short-season A-ball league, but his stock remained high — based only on talent, most prospect-tracking publications had Romero in their top fifteen.
His fastball is good, and his changeup and slider have shown significant promise, especially given his pinpoint control of the zone.
If all was going to plan, Romero would be somewhere between Hagerstown and Harrisburg now, preparing to help the big-league club in September and potentially through October.
The only problem? Romero isn’t in Maryland, Virginia, or Pennsylvania, nor is he rehabbing in West Palm Beach. He’s currently at home in Houston, Texas, after Rizzo sent him home from Spring Training for conduct reasons mainly around curfew.
Before Seth Romero was sent home following repeated curfew violations, GM Mike Rizzo gave Romero – who had been booted from the University of Houston baseball team for bad behavior – a stern warning, according to people familiar with the situation. While Rizzo was said to give him a clean slate, he also warned him to follow the rules. Agent Scott Boras is said to be supportive of Rizzo’s stance, as they all want Romero to get serious about harnessing his vast potential. Some believe he has such great talent that he could contribute now (had he followed rules this spring).
[ed. note - “Here is the latest of what Rizzo said about Romero on the Sports Junkies on 5/3/18.”]
Romero is clearly a prospect that could be of use to the Nats within the coming months— but similarly to Glover, he lives in limbo after jeopardizing his own status. There is no sense as to when Glover will return from injury, nor is there any sense regarding when Romero will leave Texas and start his season.
The Nationals can wait them out, and hope that at least one of them could be of use at some point.
Their bullpen could use some fortification before the trade deadline though, and they can’t rely on two pitchers who have essentially disappeared for the past few months. They might want to pursue other strategies.