Lucas Giolito hasn't thrown a baseball since being removed from a game on Tuesday, March 6. While he didn't return to the mound on Thursday, he did throw the ball for the first time in over eight weeks, doing so on flat ground at a distance of about 30 to 40 feet.
The starter for the West squad in last summer's Perfect Game All-American Classic, Giolito entered the spring with a legitimate chance to become the first right handed pitcher selected first overall in the MLB draft. His velocity had continued to improve, with reports of his fastball not only hitting, but sustaining, the magical 100 mph mark in one start while also honing his “wipeout” curveball.
At 6-foot-6, 240-pounds he also has the ideal size for a staff ace to go along with an easy, repeatable delivery. Basically, all of the pieces are in place for him to become a future staff ace.
He was removed from his start on March 6 after feeling a pull in his elbow which was diagnosed the following morning as a strain in the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). No surgery was deemed necessary, but Giolito immediately began a rigorous rehabilitation program.
“I've been doing all sorts of exercises to really strengthen different parts of my arm and body that I haven't really touched before,” Giolito told Perfect Game shortly after his throwing session. “I've been doing exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff, my back and my scapula and also strengthen my forearm. I feel a lot stronger than I used to, especially with my arm, and it's all going to help so I'm not putting unnecessary stress on my elbow so I can stay healthy."
The silver lining that has emerged through this process is that Giolito has learned a lot about his body, and has gotten a taste of what is needed to be done moving forward to sustain good health and the success that comes with it.
“I've learned all sorts of things,” Giolito said. “Once you start a program like this it's something you can take with you the rest of your career, so it's definitely something I'll always be doing making sure I'm always strong and everything is working properly.
"When I first started I was doing these exercises that were killing me. Now when I do them they're so much easier and I feel so much stronger.
”Because I'm not able to pitch I'm taking rehabilitation really seriously making sure I'm making everything really stronger. I'm also focusing keeping my leg strong and making my core really strong too.”
While the first question that pops to mind for most people, including those in the scouting community, is when Giolito will return to pitching. One may think that the impending draft may unnecessarily speed up the timetable for his return, but that is not the case. Giolito exudes wisdom beyond his years while keeping the big picture in mind.
“I'm not on any sort set timetable for throwing,” Giolito said. “(Throwing) was just flat ground today, just making sure the arm feels loose and it feels really good. I'm not really in a rush to do anything right now. I want to make sure that I stay healthy because when I'm doing things like this I have my whole career in mind, not just the near future, so I want to make sure that I take it slow and I listen to my arm and make sure it's feeling good.”
How much Giolito's absence from pitching affects his draft stock won't be determined until draft day itself, and Giolito insists that he doesn't have his mind on the draft or his seemingly eventual professional career. He remains comfortable with his commitment to UCLA as part of a promising recruiting class that includes Harvard-Westlake and Perfect Game All-American teammate Max Fried, as well as fellow PG All-Americans Hunter Virant, Cody Poteet and Daniel Robertson.
The thought of even half of those players attending college is an exciting one for the Bruins, particularly since they're one year removed from graduating two of the top pitching prospects in the game, Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer.
“UCLA is fantastic,” Giolito said of his commitment. “They're having a really good season, I've been out to see a bunch of games over the weekends so it's very exciting. I still love my commitment there, so I'm looking forward to it.”
For the time being Giolito remains a member of his Harvard-Westlake baseball team, currently ranked No. 2 in the nation as part of Perfect Game's National High School Rankings. Not being able to take the mound and compete has been difficult, but he has a positive outlook on he and his team's situation.
“Despite not being able to pitch I still feel like I'm part of the team, the team accepts me and we're all in it together,” Giolito said. “Right now the team's really playing well so we'll see how the end of the season unfolds.”
As for the next time that Giolito throws, that remains to be determined as his strict focus remains on rehab.
“I'm going to build (the arm strength) back up, building it back slowly, build it back up while listening to my arm and how my arm feels and we'll see how it goes. I'm very excited to start pitching again.”
Perfect Game All-American Classic