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Nats reiterate Lucas Giolito will be handled like TJ pitchers before him

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Nats reiterate Lucas Giolito will be handled like TJ pitchers before him

It may not reach Stephen Strasburg in 2012 proportions, but how the Nationals monitor top prospect Lucas Giolito's workload this season could end up being one of 2016's biggest - or at least most interesting - storylines.

The 21-year-old who some have described as a rare talent, with prototypical size and stuff, is still technically on his way back from Tommy John surgery in the sense he has yet to reach a full workload as a professional.

Giolito is long removed from the procedure itself, which he had in 2012, but at his age and inexperience will have to be monitored to an extent. It's highly unlikely he will reach the 200-innings mark, for instance, after setting a career-high of 117 innings just a year ago.

Here is what Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said about Giolito back in December:

"We're going to obviously be a caretaker to his workload and his innings. We expect big things from Lucas Giolito not only in 2016, but down the road also."

Rizzo was asked again about Giolito before Friday's game against the Twins and he reiterated (twice) that the Nats plan to handle him just like his Tommy John veteran predecessors. Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann would be the likely models to follow.

“He is on the same protocol every other Tommy John recipient is on," Rizzo said. "He’ll be treated like we’ve treated every other Tommy John recipient.”

The second is what Rizzo replied when asked if the team would skip Giolito's starts, for example, to extend the right-hander's season. If he falls somewhere in between what he pitched last year (117 innings) and the 200-inning mark, his availability in late September or October, if the Nats are fortunate enough to make it that far, could come into question. If he makes his MLB debut this season, as many expect him to, that could create an interesting debate, as we've seen before most notably with Strasburg and Matt Harvey.

By saying the Nats will handle Giolito like they have "treated every other Tommy John recipient" suggests an innings limit the team will adhere to, but we don't know the specifics of what that number is or even a range it could fall in. 

I broke down some numbers comparing Giolito to Strasburg and Zimmermann - who were both shut down midseason - to project a potential percentage increase in his innings this season, but that was simply an attempt to read the tea leaves. If the Nats have a specific number in mind, they aren't intent on revealing it.

Will this mean a shutdown for Giolito, or will we see him pitching in October as the Nats embark on a playoff run with their prized pitching prospect in the fold? We don't know the answer to that question, and if the Nats are out of contention in September it could become moot, but the whole situation could become interesting to analyze as this season plays on.

[RELATED: MLB's RBI program coming to DC with focus on inner-city kids]

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Nats give up monster HR, drop series-opener with Giants

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USA TODAY Sports

Nats give up monster HR, drop series-opener with Giants

SAN FRANCISCO  -- Mac Williamson hit a two-run homer in the sixth to lead the Giants past the Washington Nationals 4-2 on Monday night.

Chris Stratton (2-1) struck out five over 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs and four hits.

Williamson, playing his first home game at AT&T Park this season after being called up during the recent road trip, connected with a deep drive to right-center off Shawn Kelley after he relieved starter Gio Gonzalez (2-2). Gonzalez walked Brandon Belt to end his day before Williamson crushed the first pitch he saw from Kelley.

The 464-foot shot by Williamson is the furthest homer by the Giants this year, topping his previous 434-foot homer Friday after he was promoted to face the Angels in Anaheim. Earlier Monday, Williamson drove in his team's initial run on a fielder's choice in the fourth.

Only three home runs have travelled further in 2018, according to MLB StatCast: Franchy Cordero (489), Avisail Garcia (481) and Marcell Ozuna (479)

San Francisco kicked off a 10-game homestand by winning back-to-back games for only the second time this season and first since April 4-7. The Giants were coming off their first series victory of the season against the Angels.

The Nationals' runs came on a pair of sacrifice flies, by Howie Kendrick in the third and pinch-hitter Andrew Stevenson in the seventh.

Gonzalez allowed three runs and four hits, struck out four and walked three in five innings.

In his only other start against Washington, Stratton threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts last Aug. 13.

Hunter Strickland, who brawled with Bryce Harper during Washington's last visit to AT&T Park in late May 2017, finished for his fourth save in six chances. Harper didn't bat in the ninth.

NATS TRADE COLE

Washington traded right-hander A.J. Cole to the New York Yankees for cash. The 26-year-old Cole was 1-1 with a 13.06 ERA in four games for the Nationals and was designated for assignment last week.

BAKER REUNION

Ex-Nationals manager Dusty Baker, who guided Washington to back-to-back NL East titles before his firing after last season, visited the ballpark to see his former club.

Did he plan the visit in advance?

"Maybe," Baker said, grinning.

Nats pitcher Stephen Strasburg hustled out to give Baker a big hug behind the batting cage.

"What's up Dusty, how you doing?" Strasburg said.

Baker also visited with third base coach Bob Henley, the loan holdover from his coaching staff.

Baker is now working in an advisory role to Giants CEO Larry Baer while getting to watch son, Darren, play his freshman college season at California in Berkeley.

"I am good," Baker said. "How bad can it be between Cal, San Francisco and Sacramento?"

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: OF Adam Eaton, on the disabled list retroactive to April 9 with a bone bruise in his left ankle, won't be rushed back until he is completely pain-free. "When you see him in the lineup he'll be ready," manager Dave Martinez said. "He's coming along. When we get him back this time we don't want any issues." ... OF Brian Goodwin remains in Florida with pain in his bruised left wrist.

Giants: LHP Will Smith is eagerly anticipating his return from Tommy John surgery that cost him all of last season, and he could come off the DL as soon as Tuesday. He pitched twice for Class-A San Jose and three times so far for Triple-A Sacramento. He is scheduled to throw consecutive days for Sacramento on Wednesday and Thursday then another short outing Sunday. "We're close. We're getting there," Smith said, noting it will be "awesome. I'm ready to go." ... RHP closer Mark Melancon (flexor strain in pitching elbow) is scheduled to play catch during Thursday's off day. There is no timetable for his return, manager Bruce Bochy said. ... LF Hunter Pence (sprained right thumb) did some hitting and is scheduled for early batting practice Tuesday.

UP NEXT

Giants lefty Ty Blach (1-3, 4.10 ERA) will face the Nationals for the first time in his career when he pitches the middle game of the series opposite right-hander Tanner Roark (1-1, 3.24).

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Bryce Harper, broken bats, and bobbleheads: a true trifecta

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Bryce Harper, broken bats, and bobbleheads: a true trifecta

Bryce Harper can do no wrong.

Last week in a win over the New York Mets, Bryce Harper, in super-human fashion, managed to shatter his bat while still hitting a home run.

It was as incredible as you think it is. Click the link in the line above here if you don't believe us. 

In what was already a one-of-one scenario, the cherry on top has been officially added: a Bryce Harper, broken-bat bobblehead.

The company that will be producing the legendary figurines is Sports Fan Island, who have gotten the bobbleheads licensed through both the MLB and the MLBPA.

The details on the bobblehead speak for themselves, from the intricacy of the broken bat, to the flames surrounding home plate under Harper.  

Despite the fact that the bobbleheads don't officially ship until July, fans can begin to pre-order this piece of historic memorabilia for $39.99, so you may want to grab them while they're still hot. 

RELATED: 2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS- APRIL UPDATE