Lucas Giolito’s return to Anaheim a reminder of what could have been for Angels

ANAHEIM, Calif. — When the Angels traded for Lucas Giolito days before the trade deadline, he was, by definition, a rental. As a pending free agent after this season, that’s the semi-technical terminology.

But in reality, there was a bigger-picture implication that accompanied his arrival to the Angels. Giolito is from Southern California. As a kid, he attended the 2002 World Series at Angel Stadium.

It would have been fair to see this “rental” trade as a possibility for so much more. The potential for a long-term partnership between an All-Star pitcher and his hometown team.

Giolito will make his next start off that mound in Anaheim on Saturday. But it won’t be for the Angels. He was one of seven players put on waivers — five of whom were claimed — in an effort for the Angels to dump salary and get below the luxury tax. Cleveland picked him up, along with ex-Angels relievers Reynaldo Lopez and Matt Moore.

What seemed like a storybook trade back home for Giolito did not play out like anyone anticipated.

“I don’t think I’ll be expecting any tribute video,” the 29-year-old righty said with a laugh. “Considering I was there for a month and didn’t pitch great. It’s all just part of it.”

It’s a little weird for Giolito, a little surreal. This will be the third different jersey he’s worn on the Angel Stadium mound this season.

He had a positive reflection of his time with the Angels and said players and coaches came to say hello as he threw a bullpen. He approached Shohei Ohtani as he jogged in the outfield.

It’s a reminder of how, outside of the atrocious season-defining August the Angels had, there was a solid foundation established between the team and Giolito.

That came undone on Aug. 29, when Giolito and others saw news reports that they’d been put on waivers. The process was unprecedented, and there was immediate confusion.

“I didn’t even know what the hell was going on when that went down,” Giolito said. “None of us did. That was very strange.”

Lucas Giolito allowed nine earned runs in his first start for the Guardians. (David Richard / USA Today)

Even Angels manager Phil Nevin was uncertain about what was happening, Giolito said. There was a meeting among the players on waivers where the team gave some background on what could happen in the next 48 hours.

The Angels had given away a slew of prospects, including some of their most highly rated up-and-comers. Now, the players they got in return were free for the taking. No trade necessary.

“It came out on Twitter and all that first,” Giolito said. “Then we went in the office and (Angels manager) Phil (Nevin) was just finding out about it as well. … It’s part of the process sometimes.”

Giolito’s season has become a slog since the White Sox traded him. He’s posted an 8.58 ERA in seven starts. That includes a nine-run, three-inning effort in his Guardians debut.

The struggles have likely impacted his free-agent value. Giolito said he feels some of his issues can be attributed to a lack of routine, and hopes being in one place for the final month will help him.

“I’m happy I’m getting back on a good routine,” Giolito said. “And done with all the crazy travel. It’s like, ‘Alright cool, I’m here.’”

He said it was tough for his Angels tenure to end the way it did. He came from a White Sox team that was certifiably the biggest disaster in the sport. He knew he was going to be traded, it was just a matter of where.

He ended up on a team that was just a couple of games out of wild-card position. The Angels then became a disaster equal to what was happening on the south side of Chicago.

Those catastrophes weren’t Giolito’s fault. But the circumstances have forced him to have a chaotic six weeks.

“It’s always a tough pill to swallow,” Giolito said. “It happens. There’s a lot of failure in this game.”

Giolito’s experience with the Angels was a positive one overall. He loved playing for Nevin. And Nevin was equally complimentary.

When asked if he could see a scenario where he re-signs with the Angels, Giolito said “for sure,” while acknowledging that even considering free agency feels so far beyond what he’s even thinking about right now.

Nothing with the Angels’ season has gone according to plan. Their play since the trade deadline has been some of the worst baseball in franchise history. No team has been as bad as they have been.

So it fits the theme that Giolito’s tenure with this team didn’t go to plan either. What felt like could have been a long-term partnership ended after six starts in which the Angels went 1-5.

It’s led to this moment, where Giolito is back in Anaheim, ready to pitch against the team that he was supposed to help pitch to the playoffs this year.

“Baseball is weird how those things happen,” said Nevin. “I’m rooting for him, I really am. I loved having him here. I know his first start with them didn’t go well. I’m kind of hoping the next one doesn’t either.”

(Top photo of Lucas Giolito: Kiyoshi Mio / USA Today)

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