Lucas Giolito is still adjusting to the life of a Minor Leaguer, and beyond scouting reports and pitch charting, some aspects of the game go unnoticed. Like the weather.
"My first start, I wasn't prepared for the cold weather, I wasn't wearing long sleeves," said Giolito. "Before this season, the coldest weather I'd ever pitched in was the low 60s in California."
It was 59 degrees at first pitch on Thursday in Lakewood, N.J., and Giolito wasn't going to make the same mistake twice.
"I definitely felt more comfortable tonight," he said. "I was more prepared with sleeves and warming up properly, so I felt a lot better."
Embracing the chill, the Nationals' top prospect allowed one hit over five sharp innings for his first Class A victory as Hagerstown blanked Lakewood, 6-0. Giolito (1-0) struck out six and walked one, facing 17 batters in his second South Atlantic League start. Wander Suero held the BlueClaws to two hits over the final four innings to earn his first save.
"I felt really great on the mound," Giolito said. "I was getting a lot of early contact, the guys on defense were making really good plays and it all really worked out. I was able to get through the game pretty smoothly."
The right-hander held the BlueClaws hitless in the first before working around a two-out double by Sam Hiciano in the second. He struck out two in the third, worked a 1-2-3 fourth and whiffed Gabriel Lino to end the fifth after walking Larry Greene with two outs.
MLB.com's No. 43 prospect was the Nationals' first-round pick in the 2012 Draft and spent all of last season at the lower levels of Washington's system after undergoing Tommy John surgery in August 2012. He finished last season 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nationals and short-season Auburn.
Thursday's win came five days after Giolito was roughed up for four runs -- three earned -- on six hits and a pair of walks over three innings in his Suns debut against Rome on April 5.
"I was definitely throwing a lot of fastballs, mixing it inside and outside, complementing it with changeups and curveballs depending on the situation," he said.
There is more learning ahead, so the 19-year-old Giolito doesn't want to look too far into the future.
"Honestly I'm just taking it game by game. I just want to get out there and pitch like I pitched tonight and put the ball in play, strike guys out when I need to, just give the team a chance to win," he said.
Hagerstown gave its starter a lead in the third when David Masters singled and scored on a base hit by Isaac Ballou with two outs. The Suns tacked on four more runs in the sixth as Khayyan Norfork hit a two-run double, John Wooten singled home Wilmer Difo and Ballou came home on a fielding error by center fielder by Carlos Tocci. Masters added an RBI single in the eighth.
Pitching in Lakewood, where the BlueClaws drew more than 7,000 fans Thursday, is another adjustment for Giolito, who took the mound in relative obscurity last year.
"It definitely gets more and more fun. It was fun to pitch in front of a lot of people tonight in a stadium. I like that atmosphere, it makes the game more fun," he said. "So I'm looking forward to doing that more in the future."
Giolito said he's not fazed by the stature of being the Nationals' No. 1 prospect, a ranking held in recent years by Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg.
"It's definitely an honor, but it's not something I focus on," he said. "I try to focus on pitching and getting wins for the club, but it's cool to have something in the background like that."
Tyler Viza, the Phillies' 33rd-round pick in 2013, was charged with five runs -- four earned -- on five hits and a walk over five innings to lose his second start for Lakewood. He struck out five.