Charlotte Knights

After brief stint in majors, what top pitching prospect hopes to gain with Charlotte Knights

Charlotte Knights pitcher Lucas Giolito, warming up in the outfield Tuesday at BB&T Ballpark, spent four seasons in the Washington Nationals’ organization before he was dealt to the Chicago White Sox in the offseason.
Charlotte Knights pitcher Lucas Giolito, warming up in the outfield Tuesday at BB&T Ballpark, spent four seasons in the Washington Nationals’ organization before he was dealt to the Chicago White Sox in the offseason. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte Knights right-hander Lucas Giolito never caught the acting bug like the majority of his family.

He occasionally read lines with his mom, Lindsay Frost, who appeared in 49 movies and TV shows, including “Lost” and “Boston Legal.” His father, Rick Giolito, is a producer and played in TV series such as “Who’s the Boss?” and “As The World Turns.”

Perhaps the biggest Hollywood star of the family is Giolito’s grandfather, Warren Frost, who famously appeared in five episodes of “Seinfeld” as the father of George Costanza’s fiancee.

Giolito, 22, never shared their common interest in cinema. His only acting experience came in elementary school, where he appeared in the mandatory school plays.

However, after entering last season as baseball’s consensus top pitching prospect and struggling mightily in the majors before being traded by the Washington Nationals in the offseason, Giolito hopes to write his own script as one of the key pieces in the Chicago White Sox’s rebuild.

“It’s obviously not good to struggle or not be successful,” said Giolito about last season. “But at the same time, I learned a lot from going up to the big leagues and getting hit around a lot, learning what it takes to be an elite starting pitcher at that level and be able to stay there.”

Before last season, Giolito appeared to have all the makings of a future All-Star.

The Nationals selected him No. 16 overall in the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft out of Los Angeles’ Harvard-Westlake School. He underwent Tommy John surgery shortly afterward. However, he quickly ascended through the system and was named baseball’s No. 3 prospect entering last season.

Giolito made his MLB debut on June 28 against the New York Mets. He surrendered one hit in four innings in a rain-shortened 5-0 win.

Yet, an unexpected storm was brewing.

The stellar numbers — a 2.97 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 115 1/3 innings — he posted across three different minor-league levels last season turned into a 6.75 ERA and a 11:12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in six appearances (four starts) with the Nationals.

By season’s end, he’d been promoted and demoted four times.

“Every time I got called up, I thought, ‘I have to go and (pitch well) today or I’m going to get sent down,’ ” said Giolito, who is 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds. “I’d say I put too much pressure on myself in that sense instead of just going out and being like, ‘Hey, I’m a big leaguer. Let’s go have some fun.’ ”

Then came the trade to the White Sox.

Giolito sensed he might be dealt when the Winter Meetings began. His name often appeared in rumors involving Chicago ace Chris Sale, who was ultimately sent to the Boston Red Sox. He tried not to pay attention.

But a day after the Sale trade, Giolito was watching TV when he learned the news via Twitter. The Nationals had traded him — along with fellow pitchers Dane Dunning and Reynaldo Lopez (the Knights’ starter for Thursday night’s home opener against Norfolk ) — to the White Sox in exchange for outfielder Adam Eaton.

“The first thought in my mind,” Giolito recalled, “was, ‘This is a fresh start, a new organization. I’m just going to be able to go there and not feel the same pressure I felt last year and just relax.’”

Chicago has stressed the club won’t rush its new prospects to the majors. Thus, Giolito won’t bounce up and down as often as he did with Washington last season.

Instead, he’ll be given a chance to refine the mechanical and command issues that have plagued him under the guidance of Charlotte pitching coach Steve McCatty, who held the same position with the Nationals from 2009-15.

“I certainly don’t have all of the answers,” McCatty said. “I might have a lot of different ideas, but none of us should say we have all of the answers. But the big thing is just working on commanding his stuff, building his confidence, learning about what he can do and what he can’t do.

“And more just being who Lucas Giolito is going to be.”

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