Harvard-Westlake to make history with three starting pitchers on MLB’s opening day

Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Lucas Giolito throws a pitch against the Texas Rangers during the first inning of a spring training baseball game Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Chicago White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito will be among 3 previous Harvard-Westlake colleagues beginning for an MLB group on opening day. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

As if Matt LaCour isn’t hectic enough nowadays, with 22 of the Studio City Harvard-Westlake High athletic director’s groups — consisting of football, basketball, baseball and softball — in action, he will enter into next-level multi-tasking mode Thursday.

While layering his regular tasks with the logistical obstacles of monitoring many overlapping, pandemic-altered seasons, LaCour will attempt to take in as much of a historical day for Big league Baseball and his school as he can.

At midday PDT, LaCour will fire up his workplace tv to enjoy Atlanta Braves left-hander Max Fried take the mound versus the Philadelphia Phillies in People Bank Park.

An hour later on, on his computer system or iPad, he’ll mark time a live stream of the St. Louis-Cincinnati video game from Terrific American Baseball Stadium, where right-hander Jack Flaherty will pitch for the Cardinals.

And late in the afternoon, LaCour will slip out of the workplace and drive to Anaheim to enjoy Chicago White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito begin a 7 p.m. video game in Angel Arena.

It will mark the very first time in baseball history that 3 gamers from the very same high school group — Giolito, Fried and Flaherty were Harvard-Westlake colleagues in 2012— will make opening-day starts in the very same season.

“I’ll be running around with my head cut off,” stated LaCour, who invested 9 years as the school’s baseball coach prior to ending up being ADVERTISEMENT in 2015. “But opening day will definitely be a lot more special this year.”

Flaherty, 25, and Giolito, 26, are developed aces and were called opening-day beginners on Feb. 25 and March 15, respectively. Fried, 27, was not a lock for opening day on an excellent Braves personnel however got approval last Thursday, finishing the Harvard-Westlake trifecta.

“It’s pretty weird and wild — 10% of the league’s opening-day starters from the same high school,” Giolito stated on a weekend video call. “I don’t think that’s happened before in any professional sport, where you have guys from the same high school all competing on the big stage.”

That this trio of previous Los Angeles-area teens rose to such heights is not unexpected. When they were high school colleagues, they didn’t simply desire reach the big leagues.

“We wanted to be mainstays in the big leagues,” Giolito stated. “That was something we talked about all the time, because if you set those goals high and you’ve got guys in your corner to motivate you, then they’re much more reachable than if you’re just kind of on your own and hoping and wishing.”

All 3 were first-round choices, Fried going seventh to San Diego and Giolito 16th to Washington in 2012, and Flaherty going 34th to St. Louis in 2014. However the line from the draft to Thursday’s opening-day project wasn’t direct for 2 of them.

Atlanta Braves' Max Fried pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during a spring training game.

Atlanta’s Max Fried pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during a spring training game March 21 in Port Charlotte, Fla. (John Bazemore / Associated Press)

Giolito and Fried had Tommy John surgeries, Giolito in 2012 and Fried in 2014, and both were traded away from the teams that drafted them. The 6-foot-6, 245-pound Giolito also overcame a brutal 2018 in which he went 10-13 with a 6.13 ERA and an American League-high 90 walks in 173 1/3 innings.

The following winter, Giolito revamped his workout regimen, focusing more on core strength, and his delivery, shortening his arm stroke and slightly altering his arm slot and release point.

He went 14-9 with a 3.48 ERA and 228 strikeouts and made the All-Star team in 2019 and 4-3 with a 3.48 ERA in 12 starts in 2020, including an Aug. 25 no-hitter against Pittsburgh.

“Three years ago, Lucas was the worst pitcher in big league baseball, and he had to completely reinvent himself,” LaCour said. “If that’s not some perseverance, I don’t know what it is.”

Fried, a lanky 6-4, 190-pounder, had a breakout 2019 for the Braves, going 17-6 with a 4.02 ERA in 33 games. He went 7-0 with 2.25 ERA in 11 starts in 2020 and was sharp in 2 National League Championship Series starts versus the Dodgers, going 0-1 with a 2.84 ERA in 12 2/3 innings.

Flaherty had a smoother path to the big leagues, the 6-4, 225-pounder compiling a 23-22 record and 3.37 ERA in 76 games over the last four seasons.

But he ran into some turbulence in 2020, when he was criticized by some Cardinals fans for his support of the Black Lives Matter movement and his team was shut down for 2½ weeks from late July through mid-August because of a COVID-19 outbreak that forced them to play 11 doubleheaders.

St. Louis' Jack Flaherty pitches during a spring training game against the Washington Nationals.

St. Louis’ Jack Flaherty pitches throughout a spring training video game against the Washington Nationals on March 10 in West Palm Beach, Fla. (Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)

“Each of them has kind of gone through their own set of tough circumstances in order to get here,” LaCour said. “It says a lot about their fight and determination, and the way they take care of their bodies, and how professional they are about how they go about their business.”

As accomplished as the three are as major leaguers, they were unable to win a Southern Section championship together.

Giolito was projected as a No. 1 pick before injuring his elbow in his second game in 2012 and missing the rest of his senior season.

Fried went 8-2 with a 2.02 AGE and 105 strikeouts in 66 innings in 2012 but spent only one year at Harvard-Westlake after transferring from Montclair Prep, which had eliminated its athletic program because of budget cuts. Flaherty was a sophomore shortstop who hadn’t fully committed to pitching in 2012.

The Wolverines went 24-5-1 and lost in the quarterfinals of the Division I playoffs in 2012, a season in which Giolito “was our biggest cheerleader in the dugout,” LaCour said.

The three have remained best friends, calling and texting each other regularly. They’ve worked out together in the winter season. Fried and Flaherty were in Giolito’s wedding party in December 2018.

“Growing up, they all talked about playing in the major leagues,” stated Rick Giolito, Lucas’ daddy. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t that be something?’ But having all three start on opening day? That’s crazy.”

This story initially appeared in Los Angeles Times.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.