Rizzo Has Only Joy In Tracking Giolito's Rise

Mike Rizzo and the Nationals traded Lucas Giolito to the White Sox in 2016.

Mully & Haugh Show
June 11, 2019 - 10:51 am
White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito

Patrick Gorski/USA Today Sports

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(670 The Score) Had Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo known right-hander Lucas Giolito ascend to the heights that he has in 2019, chances are he wouldn't have traded him to the White Sox in December 2016.

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Nevertheless, Rizzo doesn't have regret watching and following Giolito's performance of late. He only has joy, fully understanding what Giolito went through in undergoing Tommy John surgery shortly after the Nationals drafted him No. 16 overall in the 2012 amateur draft and the battles that Giolito has faced with his mechanics in recent years.

"No mixed feelings," Rizzo said on the Mully & Haugh Show on Tuesday morning. "Couldn't be happier for Lucas -- what a great gentleman he is, a great young kid. You know, we took a calculated risk drafting him 16th knowing he was going to need Tommy John and miss a year or a year-and-a-half or so, but this kid worked diligently down in Florida for us rehabbing. You know how lonely that time gets, you're down there by yourself just grinding away day after day. And this kid deserves everything he has got. Our scouts recognized and identified this guy early on in the draft. He was at the top of our board -- he was probably our No. 1 pitcher on our board in that draft. We took a calculated risk. He got down to 16, and we took him due to his work ethic and his stuff and his repertoire and his body size and that type of thing. Through that and hard work, it's really paying off for him and the White Sox. 

"I couldn't be happier. No mixed feelings at all. I want this kid to pitch in many All-Star Games, (win) Cy Young awards and have a terrific career that we thought he could have."

The White Sox acquired Giolito, right-hander Reynaldo Lopez and right-hander Dane Dunning from the Nationals in exchange for outfielder Adam Eaton back in 2016. Giolito and Lopez now comprise two-fifths of the White Sox's rotation, while Dunning is a promising prospect even after being sidelined by Tommy John surgery in March.

From afar, Rizzo has followed Giolito's turnaround campaign. After a miserable 2018 in which he posted a 6.13 ERA, the worst among all qualifying starters in baseball, Giolito has transformed into one of the best pitchers in the game. He's 9-1 with a 2.28 ERA and 0.92 WHIP while striking out 89 batters and walking 22 in 75 innings.

Rizzo credited White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper in large part for Giolito's resurgence.

"Don Cooper has done a great job with Lucas," Rizzo said. "They changed some things. Tommy John rehabs come in all different shapes and sizes and timeframes and that type of thing, and there's no cookie-cutter approach to it. It's taken Lucas probably two full years coming back from Tommy John at such a young age. He's such a long-levered pitcher that his delivery can fall apart quickly because of his size and athleticism and that type of thing. Don's done a great job with him. Like I said, Lucas, his determination and stick-to-itiveness have been great, and I think reaping the rewards of such a hard battle to get back to where he is. He's pitching outstanding. I couldn't be happier for him. It's a tip of the cap to the White Sox's scouting department, it's a tip of the cap to our scouting department that recognized him early and drafted him. We're looking forward to him having a long, illustrious career except for when he pitches against us."

Rizzo was also bullish on the White Sox's outlook amid their rebuild.

"I really like the direction that they're going in," he said.