On professional baseball’s spectrum of pain tolerance and toughness, pushing too hard is a far more noble fault than not pushing at all. Players respect it. Those who sign the checks would much rather invest in someone willing to play through a little pain. Effort, in any form, is better than none at all.
But, simply put, Koda Glover tried too hard. Known for a pain tolerance so high the Washington Nationals have begged him to be more forthcoming more than once, this season might constitute a necessary learning experience for the promising young reliever. Pushing through present pain, at the expense of future health, does not always ingratiate you with higher-ups. Sometimes, it leaves everyone frustrated.
Glover is done for the season because a multifaceted shoulder injury he has rehabbed since June did not heal like he hoped it would. He pushed it too hard. Now, he has to wait through another September of inactivity, and wait for another fresh start this spring.
“I’m a lot more concerned with my body now. Used to be I was kind of like, whatever. I think being young and immature kind of plays a role in that, you kind of feel invincible some times,” Glover said. “But now definitely I’ve been humbled. I’ve taken a step back, got to reevaluate a lot of things. I’m definitely going to be smarter about my body from now on.”
Glover first went on the disabled list in June with lower back stiffness, what appeared to be an acute injury after he slipped in the shower. The team never clarified the trouble as something bigger. Glover eventually did that himself, a few weeks later, when he revealed he was dealing with inflammation in his rotator cuff and two different shoulder strains. He went to the team’s spring training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., to rehab them.
“The protocol we attacked it with wasn’t the right one,” Glover said. “I had a couple setbacks.”
Glover received three injections in the shoulder since the injury. That’s a significant number; injections add up. By the third one, last month, Glover felt healthy. He worked up to throwing bullpens, and had thrown three when suddenly the shoulder tightened up again. He tried to play catch the day after. His shoulder could not take it.
“I played catch two days after my injection. What it comes down to was I needed more time than two days,” Glover said. “With the season winding down, we were kind of rushing it a little bit. Typically it’s 14 to 21 days.”
So the Nationals shut Glover down for good. He will not need surgery. He will miss the postseason for the second time in two years. Last year, he tried to pitch through a torn labrum in his hip. Eventually, he could no longer take the pain. Instead of getting surgery this offseason, he opted to rehab it. The hip locked up enough this April that he needed a short disabled list stint to calm it down. While he has been shut down with shoulder trouble, Glover said, the hip trouble has lessened. But could pitching through it have led to a disruption in the kinetic chain, causing trouble to creep up to his shoulder when he compensated?
“That got brought up,” said Glover, who was adamant that the hip is no longer a problem, and didn’t seem to know for sure if the problems were related.
Whatever the cause of his inflammation, Glover said his official diagnosis is tendinitis, bursitis, and two strains — but nothing that needs surgery. A recent MRI exam confirmed that point. No major structural damage. Lots of swelling. He will not throw a ball until November, but feels sure he will be ready by February.
“As of right now, I’m in pretty good spirits. I was around my kid a little bit. He helped me out a lot as far as getting away from all the frustration I’ve had this year. It’s been a rough year on me,” Glover said. “Other than Tommy John 2012, I’ve never been hurt. So it’s one of those things where I guess maybe it’s catching up to me.”
Manager Dusty Baker wanted Glover to be around the team for the stretch run. He joined them Friday night, then saw team doctors for another evaluation Saturday. Nothing changed from what he had heard in West Palm Beach, nor from his specialist in Texas, nor any diagnosis. Most members of Glover’s 2015 draft class are still worried about moving through the minors. Glover is worried about a second straight big league season shortened by injuries, something he has not dealt with much before — something he must learn to deal with before he pushes himself into more serious trouble.
“Being drafted just two years ago and not being used to this load played a pretty big key in it,” Glover said. “But now that I know and I’m wiser as far as the workload I think I can make the adjustment.”
If he makes that adjustment, Glover seems likely to be a pig piece of this Nationals bullpen for quite some time. For now, he must wait.
WASHINGTON NATIONALS (89-58)
Trea Turner SS
Howie Kendrick LF
Daniel Murphy 2B
Ryan Zimmerman 1B
Anthony Rendon 3B
Jayson Werth LF
Michael A. Taylor CF
Pedro Severino C
A.J. Cole P
LOS ANGELES DODGERS (95-52)
Chase Utley 2B
Corey Seager SS
Justin Turner 3B
Cody Bellinger 1B
Yasiel Puig RF
Curtis Granderson LF
Austin Barnes C
Joc Pederson CF
Rich Hill P