The absence of Glover and Kelley had left a void at the back of the Nats’ bullpen. Washington has struggled to find an order of priority in the late innings as most of the relief unit has scuffled, but the righty pairing seemingly sits atop the closing depth chart at present.
Glover, 24, has been said at times to possess the stuff to handle the role and may be the club’s next homegrown closer. But it’s not clear he’s ready to handle the role now. Before going down with a hip impingement, Glover carried solid, though hardly dominant, numbers. He permitted four earned runs on seven hits over 8 2/3 innings, striking out six and walking one.
As for Kelley, he has landed among the league’s best in generating swinging strikes in recent years. But the 33-year-old is seen as requiring regular rest and careful handling given his history of elbow problems, so he may not be a standalone option in the ninth. Kelley has allowed five home runs in his first ten frames, but otherwise has been his typically dominant self, with 13 strikeouts against three walks.
It remains to be seen, of course, whether either of these pitchers can provide enough certainty in the ninth inning to foreclose the addition of a more-established closer at the trade deadline. If nothing else, though, their return will hopefully reduce the need to consider more drastic moves to shore up the the lead-protection unit far in advance of the summer trade period. Odds are, the Nats will be among the game’s most aggressive pursuers of quality relievers this summer.