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Back to drawing board for Nationals' starter Lucas Giolito after rough outing vs Padres

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Lucas Giolito threw just 36 of his 66 pitches for strikes and generated just one swing and miss while he was on the mound in what ended up a 10-6 loss to the San Diego Padres. It's back to the drawing board for the Washington Nationals' top prospect.

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Lucas Giolito struggled in his second major league start, giving up seven hits, four walks and four earned runs in just 3 ⅔ innings on the mound in Citi Field earlier this month.

"He didn't have real command," Nationals' skipper Dusty Baker Baker told reporters after Washington's 9-7 loss in New York.

"He didn't have much of his secondary pitches," Baker added, "and they were just kind of sitting on his fastball and they hit him pretty good tonight."

Giolito was optioned to the minors after that outing.

General Manager Mike Rizzo, in an MLB Network Radio interview after Giolito returned to the minors, talked about the pitcher, widely-considered the top right-handed prospect in baseball, and what he took away from Giolito's starts.

"He did everything we asked him to do," Rizzo said. "His first outing was really, really impressive and then the second one in a really, really playoff kind of hostile environment on the road for the first time with 45,000 in Citi Field on a muggy, hot day, he kind of wilted in the fourth, but the stuff -- we love the stuff, we love the makeup, he's a guy that he still has things to work on, he'll get some rotation spots in Triple-A, work on his fastball command and attacking hitters with all three of his pitches and utilizing those and you'll see him in the big leagues again this year in the rotation and maybe later on once we establish things that he can help us, as a power guy out of the bullpen.

"There are a lot of roles we can use him in. We think he's going to be a special type of starting pitcher and you're going to hear a lot about Lucas Giolito."

When it came time to once again choose a starter to fill in for the DL'd Joe Ross last week, the Nats went with 22-year-old right-hander Reynaldo Lopez.

"If Giolito had pitched a little bit better this might not have happened," Baker acknowledged when asked why they went with Lopez over Giolito or another starter.

"Giolito was having trouble with his secondary pitches," Baker said, "and in the big leagues if you're having trouble with your secondary pitches they'll just spit on that and just sit on your fastball.

"I don't care what kind of fastball you have. Plus, he wasn't displaying excellent control with his fastball, so sometimes what we want, what we all want in the progress of certain players, it doesn't coincide sometimes."

Giolito made two minor league starts before he was called back up on Sunday afternoon to face the San Diego Padres in the series finale in the nation's capital.

His third major league start didn't go well either. Giolito was out after just 3 ⅓ innings pitched, over which he gave up four hits, three walks and four runs, two earned, throwing 66 pitches, 36 for strikes.

"The big thing is you have to command off-speed pitches: curveball, changeup," Giolito told reporters, including MASN's Mark Zuckerman.

"Commanding the fastball is a given, but you’re going to get in trouble when you don’t command those pitches. When you can’t throw a curveball for a strike, or a changeup in a hitter’s count, then you get into trouble. And I’ve been dealing with a lot of that."

Giolito shortened his delivery over the last few weeks, essentially moving to pitching out of the stretch as he explained it, and commanded his offspeed pitches in his minor league outings, but the work didn't translate on the mound on Sunday, when he didn't strike anyone out and generated just one swing and miss with the 66 pitches he threw.

"It's an issue of getting your secondary pitches over and if you're not getting your secondary pitches over then they're not going to swing at bad primary pitches," Baker explained, "which is your fastball, out of the zone. And so they start zoning in on one pitch and taking everything else."

Baker was asked if he saw improvement in any of the areas that they hoped the right-hander would work on?

"No, not really," he told reporters. "I was talking to [Wilson] Ramos when I took [Giolito] out and he said he couldn't get his secondary pitches over, his curveball and his changeup.

"So he was really down to one pitch, and you either have to have tremendous gas or you have to be able to locate to the max, so it's back to the drawing board with him."