Giolito will return to big leagues, start Sunday vs. Padres

Lucas Giolito will return to the big leagues and start Sunday’s series finale against the Padres, manager Dusty Baker announced, though the length of his second stint with the Nationals (as was the case for his first stint) may not be long.

Giolito will be recalled from Triple-A Syracuse only two weeks after he was demoted following the first two major league starts of his career. The 22-year-old right-hander made two starts in the minors in the interim - he gave up four runs in seven innings for low-A Hagerstown before giving up one unearned run in 6 2/3 innings for Syracuse on Tuesday - during which time the club hopes he made some progress with the command of his off-speed pitches that eluded him while he was with Washington.

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Giolito’s return will occur on the same day fellow prospect Reynaldo Lopez is due to start for Syracuse following his erratic big league debut earlier in the week. It will also occur on the same day Joe Ross is slated to make a rehab start for Hagerstown, perhaps the final step toward the young right-hander returning from his stint on the disabled list.

Ross has been out since July 3 with inflammation in his throwing shoulder. He threw 35 pitches in a simulated game at Nationals Park earlier in the week, but this will be his first appearance in an actual game since he landed on the DL.

It remains to be seen whether Ross will need a second rehab start after this to build up his stamina before rejoining Washington’s rotation. But once he is ready to return, he figures to retake the spot now filled by Giolito (unless something happens to another Nationals starter).

Club officials made it a point all along to keep Giolito, Lopez and Ross all on the same pitching schedule, so they could be interchangeable depending on health and performance.

Giolito’s return Sunday will require a corresponding roster move, but the Nationals won’t announce that until after tonight’s game. They’ll most likely drop one of their eight relievers, with rookie Koda Glover a plausible choice.

There will probably be more roster moves in the next few days, as well. Ryan Zimmerman started at first base and batted third for high-A Potomac in the first game of tonight’s doubleheader in Woodbridge, his third rehab contest. He hit a towering, three-run homer in his first at-bat tonight, leaving him 4-for-10 with two extra base hits and five RBIs on the assignment.

If all goes well, Zimmerman (out since July 7 with a left rib cage strain) is expected to rejoin the Nationals on Sunday, travel with the team to Cleveland and return to the lineup Tuesday.

Left-hander Sammy Solis, meanwhile, is scheduled to pitch in relief of Ross on Sunday in Hagerstown, possibly his final rehab appearance before rejoining the Nationals bullpen.

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