NL East Notes: Lucas Giolito Shines in Debut

Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

The debut of top prospect Lucas Giolito headlines the latest noteworthy happenings in the NL East.

The bright lights were placed squarely on Lucas Giolito Tuesday night and he turned in a rather impressive big league debut. Considered to be the top pitching prospect in all of baseball, Giolito admirably filled in for injured Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg. The big righty turned in a rain-shortened four-inning effort, allowing just one hit without yielding a run.

After surrendering a leadoff single to Curtis Granderson, he retired 11 of the next 13 hitters he faced. Giolito needed just 45 pitches (29 strikes) to zip through his first four major league frames. Although he racked up just one strikeout, there was enough to like from his first start to assume the Nationals will give him another turn in the starting rotation.

The 6-foot-6 inch rookie induced two swings and misses (whiffs) and his fastball routinely sat in the mid 90s. He didn’t stray much from his electric fastball, mixing in his above average curve occasionally to keep hitters guessing. The scary part is, Giolito is also equipped with a pretty effective slider that we can only guess he was saving for his next trip through the order.

So, where do the Nats go from here? Well, Strasburg will miss at least one more start, so Giolito will most likely be penciled in against the Reds this weekend. They currently hold a 4.5 game lead in their division over the second place Marlins and the Mets are in third trailing by 5 games. Both margins are certainly erasable with one bad week. Meaning Washington must keep their foot on the accelerator if they want to cruise into October.

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But where does the talented rookie fit in? The rotation is in relatively good shape, if Strasburg can indeed return to full health. Tanner Roark (7-5, 2.96 ERA) and Joe Ross (7-4, 3.30 ERA) seem to be in good shape as far as their rotation spots are concerned and there’s no chance that workhorse Max Scherzer will want to skip an occasional start. So that leaves the struggling Gio Gonzalez, but Dusty Baker is unlikely to remove the two-time All-Star from the rotation even though his ERA has bulked up to 4.73.

When asked about Giolito and his potential to be a future staff ace, the Nats skipper responded with, “He’s a prospect,” per the Washington Post‘s Jorge Castillo. “You know how many prospects I’ve seen? Some work, some don’t, but we’re trying to ward off the Mets. My son’s really excited to see ‘his boy Giolito,’ as he said.”

So it looks like Giolito will probably be headed back to Triple-A whenever Strasburg returns. Sigh. Make no mistake, the Nationals will need his services again this season, whether in a starting capacity or perhaps a bullpen role in September. We shall see. Nonetheless, Giolito hit the ground running Tuesday night and the Nationals couldn’t be happier with the results.

NL East Notes

  • The Mets bumped Steven Matz‘s next start from Wednesday to Thursday to accommodate the bone spur taking residence in his left elbow. Oh yeah, while we’re on the topic of bone spurs – Noah Syndergaard does indeed have a bone spur in his elbow as well. Syndergaard deems the spur as “insignificant” and insists that surgery will not be required. We’ll see how this plays out. There were no issues with his velocity, but Monday night was his worst outing of the year, allowing five earned runs, seven hits and three walks in just over three innings.
  • Marcell Ozuna has absolutely crushed left-handed pitching this year, racking up an impressive 1.293 OPS vs southpaws this season. He’s also been on fire over the last 14 days, launching four home runs with seven RBI and slashing .375/.462/.813.

Next: 5 Pitchers Who Could Be Called Up

  • The Phillies have gone to the well a bit too much as far as their bullpen is concerned. Philadelphia starters have thrown fewer than seven innings in 19 of their last 20 games. That’s not optimal.
  • According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports, The Braves are drawing heated interest in starter Bud Norris after his 7IP, 4H, 8K start vs. the Mets. Norris is 2-1 with a 2.15 ERA over his last 5 starts.