WASHINGTON -- When the Nationals sent Lucas Giolito to the Minors after his last Major League start, they pointed to the fact that he would need more work on his offspeed pitches.
Those same troubles plagued Giolito, baseball's No. 1 prospect accoring to MLBPipeline.com, on Sunday afternoon during a 10-6 loss to the Padres at Nationals Park. He could not throw his curveball and changeup consistently for strikes, and Padres hitters were able to hone in on his fastball. It forced Washington to remove Giolito from the game with one out in the fourth, after he allowed four runs (two earned) on four hits with three walks.
After the game, Giolito was optioned back to Triple-A Syracuse, a move to help clear space on the Nationals' roster for the upcoming returns of Ryan Zimmerman and Sammy Solis.
"He was really down to one pitch," manager Dusty Baker said. "And you have to have either tremendous gas, or you have to be able to locate to the max. It's back to the drawing board with him."
Giolito threw 66 pitches and generated one swing and miss on Sunday, a startling number for a pitcher with the "stuff" that scouts have made him a potential future No.1 starter. He threw five changeups and 13 curveballs compared to 48 fastballs.
Each of Giolito's three Major League starts have lasted four innings or fewer, including one that was cut short because of rain in his Major League debut, but the other two have been short as a result of performance.
"You're going to get in trouble when you don't command those [offspeed] pitches," he said. "When you can't throw a curveball for a strike or changeup in a hitters count, then you get into trouble and I've been dealing with a lot of that."
Giolito said he had been dealing with these command issues at times all season, although he had a good grasp on those pitches during his last start at Triple-A. There he struck out seven in 6 2/3 innings and allowed an unearned run on seven hits.
"It's frustrating because my last outing at Syracuse I was commanding offspeed pitches pretty well and I had a good outing," he said. "I didn't translate that into today, obviously, so I just have to keep working and try to get better at it."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.