WASHINGTON — The Nationals called up top pitching prospect Lucas Giolito in a surprise move Monday. Making his first Major League start Tuesday against the Mets, Giolito is “ready for the task,” manager Dusty Baker says.
“You don’t know if he’s ready or not until they actually get here and perform,” Baker said. “And then you still don’t know if they’re ready because it takes a while for the league to learn you and you to learn the league, but I liked what we saw in spring training.”
For now Giolito takes the place of injured Stephen Strasburg in the rotation on what General Manager Mike Rizzo calls a “start by start” basis.
“We’re going to take it start by start and depending on our need and when we need a starter,” Rizzo said.
“We figured he gave us the best option to win the game tomorrow and he’s our No. 1 prospect,” Rizzo said. “We like the way he’s developed and we think that he’ll do well and give us a chance to win.”
Giolito is 5-3 with a 3.17 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 14 starts for Class-AA Harrisburg this season. After jumping out to a 5.30 ERA in his first five starts in 2016, Giolito allowed only seven runs over his next seven starts. Although he struggled in his past two outings — allowing seven earned runs in 9.2 innings — the Nationals were considering promoting him to Triple-A before Strasburg went on the disabled list.
“I just think he had a slow start. He’s pitched extremely well since his first four or five starts,” Rizzo said.
“I think he’s hitting on all cylinders in Double-A. We were just ready to promote him to Triple-A when Stras had his issues, so we figured we’d bring him to the big leagues and give him a few starts here.”
A former Tommy John patient in 2012, the year the Nationals drafted him 16th overall, Giolito will not be on any type of limit — pitch count, innings or otherwise — while he is in Washington, Rizzo said.
The top-ranked prospect in Major League Baseball, the Nationals are trying to downplay the hype surrounding Giolito’s first start.
“Every successful Major League pitcher has a Major League debut,” Rizzo said. “It’s a big deal because he’s a top-flight prospect that’s well known, but it’s no different than Joe Ross getting his start and Tanner Roark getting his Major League start.
“We’re trying to calm down the hype a little bit. He’s a really good prospect, hasn’t done it at the big league level. We feel confident that he’s going to be a fine Major League pitcher and we’re going to give him his chance tomorrow.”
“We really trust our guys in the minor leagues to prepare these guys to pitch and to play in the big leagues for us when they get here,” he said. “When they tell me a guy is ready, I trust that all the work has been put in and he’s going to be well rounded and able to do all facets of the game, in his case, all the facets of being a Major League starting pitcher.
“I trust in them that they’ve developed him the right way and that he’s prepared to take the next step, and when they say he’s the guy that should start against the Mets, we take him and we go with it.”