Nationals

Quick Links

Nats top prospect Giolito impressive in rain-shortened big league debut

Nats top prospect Giolito impressive in rain-shortened big league debut

Lucas Giolito's major league debut will go down as unremarkable compared to the hype that preceded it, though the reason was by no fault of his own, and though he did his part in the time allotted. 

Mother Nature had plenty to say about the first big league start for the 6-foot-6 former first round pick. First, it was a 55-minute rain delay before Tuesday's game began with Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning handing him the ball as the Nats took the field. Then, it was a one hour, 25-minute pause that put the finishing touches on Giolito's night.

Though the 21-year-old only got four innings in, he was thoroughly impressive. Giolito allowed no runs and just one hit on 45 pitches, 29 of them strikes. He issued two walks, but neither came back to bite him.

"He kept coming in my office wondering when the game is going to start," manager Dusty Baker said of the first delay. "It's an emotional swing when you turn it on, turn it off, turn it on, so I'm just glad that we got to see him pitch."

"I thought it would be like 72 degrees and sunny. That's how I dreamt it," Giolito said. "But I'll take what I can get. I mean, an MLB debut is an MLB debut."

The Nationals' top prospect was remarkably efficient, getting many of his outs on balls in play rather than strikeouts. He struck out just one batter and induced six groundballs among the 12 outs he recorded.

It was a debut that spoke to Giolito's precocious maturity that teammates and Nats executives have mentioned since he was drafted in 2012. Not once did he look intimidated by the moment, despite pitching opposite Mets star Matt Harvey in a game that would shift the standings in the NL East. And not once did he look overly anxious with an errant pitch or pressure-induced mistake.

Afterwards Giolito said he did feel nervous in the beginning, but managed to soak in the experience and not let it affect him along the way.

"When I was stretching in the outfield and starting to play catch, I was like, wow. This is a big-league game," he said. "I'm pitching, I'm starting against the Mets. That's kind of where it hit me, and it was all business from there."

Giolito was cool, calm and collected, using his mid-90s fastball heavily early on before turning to his vaunted 12-6 curveball to work around a leadoff walk in his final frame. 

"After the first pitch I could have been pitching Double-A. I could have been pitching in front of zero people and it wouldn’t have mattered. I was just locked in," he said.

"The thing that impressed me most was that I saw him so relaxed," catcher Wilson Ramos said through an interpreter. "A lot of young kids come out here and on their first outing they're very nervous and seem like they're pressured and they're all over the place with their pitches, but he was very relaxed."

The only hit Giolito surrendered was a bloop single to left field to Curtis Granderson in the first at-bat of the game. Granderson also worked a walk, and so did Yoenis Cespedes. It was Cespedes who reached to lead off the fourth before Giolito got James Loney to bite on a hooking curve and ground into an inning-ending double play.

Though Giolito entered Tuesday's start with minor concerns about his command - he walked four in his final minor league outing - he pounded the zone with regularity against the Mets. Of his first 23 pitches, 17 of them were strikes. Seven times he began a count with a first-pitch strike. 

Giolito worked up and down in the zone with his fastball to set up his curveball and took advantage of a struggling Mets lineup that woke up Tuesday ranked 28th in MLB in run production.

It was an important spot for the Nats, who secured a series win over the Mets and moved to 5-3 against them on the year. And for Giolito, it all happened in front of the most important people in his life.

"My mom, dad, brother, one of my best friends from home, my girlfriend, and I think a few other managed to make their way over here," he said.

"I don't know if my dad was even able to watch. He might have been hiding somewhere really nervous. I think he probably kept it under control. It means the world. My family's been there every step of the way. Going back to Little League, my mom and dad driving me to games, going to travel baseball, waking up at five in the morning, going to God knows where in the middle of California. It all led up to this moment, and I'm really appreciative of what they've done for me and that they were able to be here to see it."

The Nats right-hander said advice from many helped him before his big day on Tuesday, including other members of the rotation. The one message that stood out among all, though, was a mantra legend Hank Aaron once shared with Baker before his own big league debut.

"Dusty told me 'you can be anxious, you can be nervous, just don’t be scared. You belong here' and that’s just what I tried to prove."

Quick Links

With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

WASHINGTON  -- The Washington Nationals say they have agreed to a one-year deal with 40-year-old reliever Joaquin Benoit.

The team announced the move Wednesday, along with placing pitcher Joe Ross on the 60-day disabled list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery in July.

The Nationals didn't release terms of the agreement, though a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Monday that it was for $1 million.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the deal wasn't official at the time.

MORE NATIONALS: FULL 2018 SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

Benoit is a right-hander who first reached the big leagues in 2001. 

He has played for eight teams, finishing last year with Pittsburgh.

He has 764 career appearances, going 58-49 with a 3.83 ERA and 53 saves.

RELATED: 2018 MLB BETTING ODDS

Quick Links

It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

So if you have not heard, Bryce Harper is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

All off-season talking heads, baseball aficionados, radio hosts, etc. were speculating on where the outfielder’s destination will be next year.

And we are still a year away from it actually happening.

RELATED: VEGAS SETS OVER/UNDERS FOR 2018 MLB SEASON

Reporting to spring training on Monday, Harper did not waste any time telling the media how his press conferences were going to play out this season.

“If guys do [ask], or talk anything about that, I will be walking right out the door.”

Entering his seventh season with the Washington Nationals, the 25-year-old is coming off the second-best season, statistically, of his career. The 2015 NL MVP has hit .285 in his career, with 150 home runs and 421 RBIs. Unquestionably he is the face of the Nationals’ organization, if not, the best player in the team’s history.

If he does end the season without a contract extension, he will join Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds as the top sought out free agents in MLB history.

One thing is for certain in terms of Harper’s free agency; Harper has given no inclination on where his landing spot will be.  The top three cities are of course his favorite childhood team, the New York Yankees; joining with one of his closest friends with the Chicago Cubs; or just staying with Washington.

Wherever he does land, it does appear that it will be the largest contract given to a free agent ever.

As for now we just wait and direct any of your calls to his agent Scott Boras.

READ ALSO: NATIONALS FULL SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE