Lucas Giolito, the Washington Nationals’ top pick in the 2012 draft, will have Tommy John surgery on Aug. 31, a team source told The Washington Times on Thursday.
Giolito visited with Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles on Wednesday and Yocum, the same surgeon who performed the procedure on Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, confirmed the Nationals’ diagnosis that the 18-year-old right-hander’s torn ulnar collateral ligament required surgery.
The Nationals, who selected Giolito with the No. 16 overall pick, were well aware that Tommy John surgery could be in his future.
“We knew when we drafted him this was an issue and, you know, we were comfortable with the fact that, worst case scenario was Tommy John surgery,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Monday when it was announced that Giolito would see Yocum. “Going into this with our eyes wide open, we felt this was a scenario and a possibility.”
Giolito was once considered a potential No. 1 overall selection but a UCL sprain cost him most of his senior season at Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles and also played a part in his fall down the draft boards back in June.
Giolito had been rehabbing the injury, on the advice of his doctors, and the Nationals continued that rehab plan after he signed with the team moments before the deadline on July 13.
Working in Viera, Fla., with Nationals pitching coordinator Spin Williams and rehab coordinator Steve Gober, Giolito made it through his rehab program very well and built up to the point of pitching in a game, which he did on Aug. 14 for the Gulf Coast League Nationals. Giolito threw two innings that day, allowing two hits and one earned run.
But soreness returned after that outing and a visit with team medical director Wiemi Douoguih followed. He traveled to see Yocum this past week to get a second opinion and, at that time, the decision was made to pursue the surgery and get the issue behind them.
A 6-foot-6, 230-pound right-hander, Giolito has all the potential to be a front-line starter in the Nationals’ rotation down the road and, when they drafted him, they felt that was worth the risk of having to go through this process. Giolito, presumably, will spend the majority of his first full professional season working to return from the surgery, which generally carries a year-long rehab.
Strasburg and Zimmermann are just two of the Nationals players who’ve undergone the procedure, which is becoming more and more common in baseball. Top left-handed prospect Sammy Solis had the surgery in March after trying to rehab a UCL sprain discovered in November at the Arizona Fall League. Major league relievers Sean Burnett and Ryan Mattheus have also had the surgery.