- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 19, 2017

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — When Washington Nationals pitching coach Mike Maddux patrols bullpen throwing sessions at spring training, he delivers a clear directive: “Get what you need.”

The pitchers have a maximum amount of time they can throw, but don’t have a mandate to use it all. After assurance his hip felt well and his pitches had the right life for the middle of February, Koda Glover wrapped his session Saturday.

“I’ve been [throwing] off the mound for a while now,” Glover said. “Everything felt good. I was just mainly worried about the hip, pitch command and stuff. It was fine, so I got off there.”

The hip. That’s the topic around Glover this spring following his rocket rise from Single-A Potomac to the major leagues last season. The 23-year-old spent a chunk of September pitching through a torn labrum in his hip. He equated the feeling to being stabbed with an ice pick each time he landed after throwing a pitch. Glover largely kept the problem to himself until the results and pain showed he needed to tell someone.

His ERA climbed month by month. He did not allow a run in two innings in July. In August, his ERA was 4.00 (with a .177 batting average against); September, 7.27. Most of the September damage was done during back-to-back appearances against the Philadelphia Phillies. He allowed three runs in ⅓ of an inning on Sept. 9. Two days later, he threw one fastball that was hit into the stands. Four runs and one out in two appearances. His ERA went from 2.63 to 5.14 in three days.

Glover said during the winter that he was taught blood is an indicator of a problem, otherwise, tough it out. On Sept. 2, 2016, he began to notice the hip pain. He made nine more appearances after he was first injured.

He has also been reticent to mention the injury as a reason his numbers declined. In December, Glover simply said he pitched bad because he pitched bad. At spring training, he held to the same tact.

“I don’t want to say the injury kind of made me slide downhill,” Glover said.

He chose to use physical therapy to fix his hip in the offseason. Glover was back on a mound in the offseason a little earlier than usual to see how his hip was. He also finished sooner than he typically would.

In West Palm Beach, Glover said the hip is fine. He has no pain and no inflammation.

“It’s not a problem,” Glover said.

Like the winter, the Nationals need a closer. Two things about Glover are clear: He lacks experience and he appears to have a closer’s mojo. He said in the winter he thought he could do the job. He also said that’s not up to him. Glover repeated the thoughts in spring training.

“That’s not my department,” Glover said.

Glover does have knowledge in his pocket from last season. First, he knows he is unlikely to be moving through four levels of the organization in a matter of months. The fun of moving that frequently, even amid the joy of going up levels, is “about like you would think,” Glover said.

He also learned from Shawn Kelley, Mark Melancon and Matt Belisle how to structure his day, then take care of nutrition and hydration afterward. The bullpen elders embraced him, Glover said, despite him being in single A earlier in the season.

“There was a little cause for concern for how I was going to be treated, but I wasn’t worried about it,” Glover said. “I don’t really care who you are or what your name is; you’re people to me. I just kind of attacked it like that and didn’t really worry about it. I’m not scared of anybody. I think they took me in pretty well. They all treated me very well and I was happy about it.”

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