Former Nationals right-hander Lucas Giolito is back in D.C. for the first time with his new team since he was traded in December of 2016 to the Chicago White Sox. After an up-and-down 2018 campaign, Giolito is off to his best start in his young career, winning a career-high seven games in a row since April 12, now 8-1 with a 2.54 ERA.
It is a far cry from where Giolito was in 2016 with the Nats when he was called up for six appearances, including four starts. In that run with the Nats he went 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA and his WHIP jumped to 1.78. The 2012 first round selection had trouble being aggressive in matchups and struggled after giving up big hits.
“It’s definitely a lot different,” Giolito said in front of his locker Tuesday at Nats Park prior to game of Chicago’s quick two-game series with the Nationals. “I was 21, 22 years old then and up and down. Couldn’t really find a rhythm or confidence at this level at that point. But I learned a lot. Continued to learn over the last couple of seasons. Now I feel like I am in a much better place mentally, physically. It’s been great.”
But now he is pitching very well. In May he threw back-to-back complete games against Toronto and Houston and was named American League Pitcher of the Month. Giolito’s complete game against the Blue Jays was the first by the White Sox in 382 games.
So with all those bumps in the road with the Nats to the White Sox, and into the minor leagues, what did Giolito find was the main issue to turn around?
“For me confidence would waver in games. That was the biggest thing that was kind of weighing me down last year,” Giolito explained. “Losing confidence in the middle of a game, giving up that big hit, walking guys. Where as now, I am confident throughout a game no matter what’s going on behind me. Whatever happened previous, all I am worried about is executing that next pitch and having confidence in that next pitch. That’s probably the biggest change.”
Giolito returned to D.C. and got to spend some time in the city early Tuesday with shortstop Tim Anderson.
“It’s fun, yeah, it’s cool. I went out to the World War II Memorial this morning and the Martin Luther King Memorial, me and T.A. went out there. It’s great, I love the city. It’s great to be back. I just wish I was pitching. But it is what it is.”
And that’s too bad Giolito said, as the Nats miss him twice this week, two games here in D.C. and two in Chicago next week. Giolito’s next start is scheduled for Saturday night in Kansas City. The Nats play the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field next Monday and Tuesday, missing him again.
“Yeah, that would’ve been nice,” Giolito said of the missed matchup. “Whenever you get to face an old team you always have that little bit of extra fire going. I got a little bit of that in Triple-A a couple of years ago when I was on Charlotte against Syracuse. But doing it in the big leagues, that’s the best. So maybe in a couple of years or whenever it happens again.”
“It was awesome. I soaked up as much as I could during my time and carried some of those things with me,” Giolito said. “Some really, really good pitchers on that team when I was there, still on that team now. I am looking forward to the series, seeing some cool matchups, (Reynaldo López) tonight against Stras is going to be pretty fun.”
López was part of the deal as well. Alongside Giolito, López and pitcher Dane Dunning were sent to the White Sox December 7, 2016, for outfielder Adam Eaton. The Nationals right fielder Eaton bats second tonight against his former team.
As far as the current Nats clubhouse, Giolito is still good friends with pitcher Erick Fedde, ironically, another Tommy John surgery rehab success story, drafted in the first round two seasons later in 2014.
“I was texting with Erick Fedde,” Giolito said. “He was at my wedding this offseason and is still a great friend of mine. I’m looking forward to maybe chatting with them a bit during BP.”