When Lucas Giolito took his seat in the dugout for his first in-person media availability since signing a contract with the Washington Nationals, he opened the session with a genuine, “wow.” He had never been faced with so many cameras and microphones before and at times didn’t know where the questions were coming from.
But the attention that comes with being a big league player and the lifestyle they live is something that sold the 18-year-old flamethrower on signing the deal and becoming the newest high-ceiling young arm in the Washington organization. He envies the way they go about their day-to-day business and how they interact as members of a team.
Giolito visited both the Nationals and the campus of UCLA in the time between the June 4 MLB Draft and July 13, the deadline to sign draft picks. He said he pitched in front of Bruins’ head coach John Savage and enjoyed the experience, but a June trip to Washington, D.C. helped seal the deal.
“I got the chance to come here and meet some of the guys and see the city. I think D.C. is one of the best cities I’ve ever been to,” he said. “It is unreal, being able to see the monuments and being able to meet certain people it is really cool.”
Giolito and the Nationals reached an agreement seconds before the 5 p.m. deadline on July 13. It was another last-minute contract reached by the Nationals who have been there before with recent draft picks. But while Mike Rizzo and the Nats have done it before, Giolito had no such experience.
“The last couple of minutes got a little hectic, I got a little nervous there, but for the most part it went really well and I’m glad it all worked out in the end,” he said.
“It is a huge relief to get everything done on that side of things, now I get to put all my focus on rehabbing things and getting better and making my way up through the system.”
Giolito slipped up several times by implying he was already part of the team, but at 18 he may not see the big leagues very soon. He will begin the road to the show on July 18 as he travels to Viera, FL “to begin his professional career” as Rizzo put it.
The Nats general manager expounded on their plan:
“We’re going to assess him on the mound. He will have a mound progression, a throwing progression with Spin Williams and Steve Gober, our rehab coordinator down there,” he said.
“We’ll take his existing rehabilitation plan and coordinate that with our pitching coordinator and rehab coordinator and create a new plan for him and a timetable to see his progression go from flat ground and long toss to getting him on a mound and hopefully he sees some competition if not during the regular season but in the instructional league.”
Giolito sprained his ulnar collateral nerve in his elbow earlier this year, an injury he is still recovering from. It may have affected his draft stock, but Giolito said it played no role in him deciding to sign and forego his college career.
“It feels really good right now, the rehab has been going really well and the elbow feels really strong,” he said. “And my arm feels really strong. I feel really good about pitching really soon and we’ll see how it goes.”