The Nationals have reassigned top pitching prospect Lucas Giolito to minor-league camp, but they’re expecting to see him in the big leagues soon after a strong performance in Spring Training, James Wagner of the Washington Post writes. “He’s close to being big-league ready,” says GM Mike Rizzo. “I think the bulk of his developmental curve is complete. But he needs to work on the smaller, little details of preparation, participation and performance in trying to get major-league hitters out.” Giolito whiffednine batters while walking three and allowing three runs in 6 1/3 innings this spring. In the short term, the Nats are planning to go with a rotation of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark and Joe Ross, and it should be noted that Giolito’s experience is limited — he was dominant last season, but spent the bulk of the year at Class A+ and only made eight starts at the Double-A level. He’s also just 21 and has an injury history that includes Tommy John surgery. Still, the future seems very bright for one of the Nats’ best young talents. Here’s more from the NL East.
- The Braves were seriously interested in signing Justin Upton for a return engagement this past winter, Jon Heyman reports (Twitter links). The Braves were willing to sign Upton for six years, although they knew they couldn’t match the Tigers’ $22.125MM-a-year offer and never made a formal offer themselves. They were, however, believed to be willing to offer Upton a nine-figure contract. On the surface, the Braves signing Upton would not have made much sense, but they did have a protected draft pick, and Upton would have been a marketable player for them during their rebuilding phase, as well as being young enough (28) to still be productive once the team was ready to contend.
- Andrew Bailey seems to be the front-runner for the Phillies’ closer role, writes MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. That would be quite a promotion for a pitcher who’s missed much of the past two seasons due to shoulder trouble and has only thrown 8 2/3 big-league innings since 2013, although Bailey was, of course, once a closer for the A’s. “I want to see more velocity out of him,” says manager Pete Mackanin. “I know he can pitch. He’s a true competitor. He has that good curveball and cutter. But I want to see more velocity.” Dalier Hinojosa, who pitched well for the Phillies down the stretch last year, appears to be in the mix as well. David Hernandez might be another possibility, but he’s battled triceps tendinitis. Bailey, Hinjosa, Hernandez, Jeanmar Gomez, Edward Mujica and Brett Oberholtzer look likely to win bullpen jobs, with a seventh reliever yet to be determined.