Nationals

Nationals

Davey Martinez’s primary edict during spring training is to maintain health. He wants to improve fundamental flaws from a year. He wants a chance for pitchers to sharpen their stuff. But nothing surpasses the preference of keeping his players healthy -- an often impossible task as an injury-filled 2018 showed -- leading up to the March 28 home opener. Two games into spring training, there’s already a problem.

Reliever Koda Glover left Sunday’s matinee against the St. Louis Cardinals because “he said his elbow was tightening up on him,” according to Martinez. Glover will be re-evaluated Monday.

Glover pitched ⅓ of an inning and walked three.

In other situations, this would qualify under the precautionary shrug category. Not with Glover.

He’s dealt with hip, back and shoulder problems since a rocket rise from Single-A to the major leagues in 2016. Glover’s career has gone through a litany of fits-and-starts since his rapid ascension prompted him to be labeled the closer of the future. When he arrived midway through 2016, just 22 and pitching for Potomac two months earlier, even Glover thought he could be the closer right way. His fastball zipped by at 98 mph. His slider operated in the mid-90s.

Then the injuries began to roll in. Trying to work through a torn hip labrum led to bad results and shoulder problems at the end of 2016. Glover said landing on his front leg felt like someone was sticking an ice pick in his hip. Eventually, he revealed the pain to team staff and vowed a lesson learned about keeping issues to himself.

Shoulder inflammation and a repeated hip problem chased him in subsequent years. Inflammation in his right shoulder marooned him in Florida for much of last season when he pitched just 16 ⅓ innings for the Nationals. Glover, 25, grappled with so many injuries, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo agreed moving Glover through the system so fast may have helped lead to the myriad problems.

This spring, the Nationals did not structure their bullpen with Glover as a back-end piece to be relied on. Instead, he’s stationed in the middle as a wild-card who could help the Nationals’ bullpen develop into a premier one if his potential was reached. In order for that to happen, he needed to stay healthy.

The Nationals bullpen had a shaky feeling to it before Glover walked off the mound Sunday. Acquiring Kyle Barraclough and Trevor Rosenthal to back closer Sean Doolittle reset the team’s late inning trio. Wander Suero, Matt Grace, Sammy Solis, Justin Miller and Glover were in line to bridge the remaining innings. Many view that group as one potent arm short.

If Glover’s issue lingers, an opportunity for Tanner Rainey could emerge. Rainey’s fastball often registers triple digits. He also works in a slider, though his control of each pitch is erratic. Rainey was acquired on the final day of the Winter Meetings in exchange for Tanner Roark.

Rainey is depth insurance. The Nationals would simply prefer Glover to be healthy.

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