Lucas Giolito, the Washington Nationals’ top pick in this year’s draft, will have Tommy John surgery 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 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 aware that surgery was an option.
“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. “Going into this with our eyes wide open, we felt this was a scenario and a possibility.”
Giolito once was considered a potential No. 1 selection, but a UCL sprain cost him most of his senior season at Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles. It also played a part in his fall down the draft boards back in June.
Giolito had been rehabbing the injury, on the advice of doctors, and the Nationals continued that rehab plan after he signed with the team moments before the July 13 deadline.
Working in Viera, Fla., with Nationals pitching coordinator Spin Williams and rehab coordinator Steve Gober, Giolito made it through his rehab program well and built up to the point of pitching for the Gulf Coast League Nationals on Aug. 14. Giolito threw two innings, 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 the decision was made to have the surgery.
A 6-foot-6, 230-pound right-hander, Giolito has the potential to be a front-line starter. When the Nationals drafted him, they felt he 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 yearlong rehab.
Strasburg and Zimmermann are two Nationals who have undergone the procedure, which is becoming more common. 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 also have also had the surgery.