Nationals first rounder Lucas Giolito knows his innings will be limited this season. The competitor in him wants to pitch every fifth day, but knowing that's not possible with the restrictions Washington's front office has imposed, he's put it into a perspective he can deal with.
"It's not the most fun, but in the back of my mind I'm thinking, 'Would I rather have two or three weeks off now or not throw at the end of the season or in the playoffs at all?'" he said.
With that mentality of wanting to be on the mound when the games count for a little more, Washington's top prospect is content to do whatever it takes to get to the end of the year.
Giolito held the host BlueClaws hitless while striking out six over four scoreless innings in the Class A Hagerstown Suns' 5-3 victory over Lakewood in 12 innings Monday.
The 6-foot-6 right-hander, selected 16th overall in the 2012 Draft, issued three walks and faced two batters over the minimum at FirstEnergy Park.
Ranked 36th among MLB.com's Top 100 prospects, Giolito walked the first two batters of the game, but he struck out Dylan Cozens and induced an inning-ending double play off the bat of Williams Astudillo to escape the first inning.
He also worked around a two-out free pass to Mitch Walding in the second before retiring the final seven batters he faced and turning a 3-0 lead over to the bullpen.
While he was never in a position to qualify for the win because he did not get through five innings, the duration of his start became academic when the BlueClaws tied the game in the sixth, 3-3.
"It was different tonight," said Giolito, who underwent Tommy John surgery on Aug. 31, 2012. "I've talked with a lot of pitching coaches and the one thing I've heard is that, throughout the course of the season, you'll go out there with your best stuff maybe only five times. You'll normally go out there with anything ranging from mediocre to good, and you'll have five starts where you feel like you have nothing.
"Today, I had to work through it ... especially the first two innings where I walked three guys. That's never acceptable on any night and I'm not happy with that, but I am happy that I was able to get out of those situations."
The outing extended 19-year-old Giolito's scoreless streak to 14 innings, dating back four starts to May 4. But after pitching six one-hit innings May 11 against Kannapolis, the Suns kept him out of the lineup until June 3 to make sure he didn't burn through his pre-determined innings too quickly.
"The past two games have been three and four [innings] because I skipped a few outings in a row," the 225-pound California native said. "It's all part of the process of making sure I'm at full strength. I'm not questioning it. It was just a rest period to give me some time to relax and start again, because I do have that innings limit and I want to be able to pitch at the end of the year. I'm glad to be back on track."
Hagerstown catcher Spencer Kieboom went 3-for-5 with a double, a walk, an RBI and a run scored and designated hitter Drew Ward reached base three times, scored twice and recorded an RBI.
Lakewood starter Ranfi Casimiro allowed three runs on four hits and three walks while striking out eight batters over five innings. Tyler Buckley (1-2) took the loss after surrendering two runs on a pair of hits and a walk in the 12th.