Opening day is just over two weeks away and the Washington Nationals’ bullpen is in complete shambles. Since getting rid of some players, the injury bug has hit hard. The bullpen struggled greatly towards the end of last season and they have not rebuilt, only plugged a few holes. These are some of the gravest of my concerns.
Koda Glover — Shut Down
Koda Glover is great when he’s healthy, but those days have been few and far between. After missing time with hip and shoulder injuries, as well as Tommy John surgery, Glover reported to camp fully healthy. It didn’t last long … he soon developed a forearm strain.
The Nats are being careful with him, as he has pushed himself through the pain in the past only to cause further injury. He is completely inactive right now — which is putting his opening day status in jeopardy. The Nats need a healthy version of Glover ASAP, but they do have Sean Doolittle as closer for the foreseeable future.
Aaron Barrett — Slowly Progressing
The bear. After the freak accident that broke his right arm in July 2016, Aaron Barrett is finally back to being a full spring training participant. It has been a long recovery, including a few setbacks along the way, but he is back on the mound. With no path to follow like his Tommy John peers, Barrett has been taking his recovery slowly and does not look to be ready for opening day. He will probably go to AAA and try to get as much practice before rejoining the big league bullpen. They need him, but not at the expense of a third surgery.
Justin Miller — Progressing
Justin Miller took a page from Glover’s book. After staring camp healthy, he strained a muscle in his back and was completely shut down for about a week. The muscle healed, and Miller made his second spring training appearance on March 10. He pitched one inning, and stayed healthy. However, with only about 10 Grapefruit League games left, there isn’t much time for Miller to make up that week. If Glover and Barrett aren’t ready, the Nats will need him, but that would mean that he is stretched out and ready to pitch for the whole season.
Sammy Solis — Released
As if things weren’t already looking bleak, the Nats released Sammy Solis on March 9. He hasn’t always lived up to expectations, but he was a veteran lefty. Matt Grace has been a reliable southpaw in the past, but he has primarily been used as a long reliever. If he takes Solis’ spot as a lefty specialist, that just creates one more hole to plug. On March 13, the Nats signed lefty Tony Sipp to a major league contract. He should be able to fill Solis’s spot, but he only has about two weeks to get ready. Sipp improved greatly between 2017 and 2018, but he is 35 so he might not have more than this one season left in the tank.
Sean Doolittle looks to be the only proven member of the staff who is ready to go. Joe Ross is coming off Tommy John and probably won’t make the opening day rotation. It remains to see if manager Davey Martinez wants to keep him as a long reliever, or if they will start Ross in AAA. With all of these injuries, and the disaster that was last year’s bullpen exodus, I’m not confident that this group can hold a lead for three or four innings a night.