Nats' Grace Back In Rotation





WASHINGTON — After a three-year stint on UCLA's loaded pitching staff, lefthander Matt Grace has gone back to where he began.

Grace, 22, went to UCLA expecting to be a regular starter at some point, but by his junior year he was a key component of the bullpen while Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer anchored the rotation. The program's success more than made up for him switching from a starter at Palos Verdes (Calif.) High to a reliever. He also got within two quarters of a political science degree before going into professional baseball.

"Making it as far as we did last year was the best thing I've ever done in baseball," said Grace, who helped UCLA reach the College World Series championship before falling to South Carolina. "It was pretty much a dream come true—getting to the finals. Even with us not capitalizing, it was a magical season. The whole deal with being in the last game at (Rosenblatt Stadium), I was taking dirt from the mound and everything. It was really cool."

An eighth-round pick, he went 1-2, 6.41 in 10 appearances, including seven starts, between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and short-season Vermont last year. He made the jump to low Class A Hagerstown this year, and a six-inning, two-hit, shutout performance brought his numbers to 2-3, 5.04 through 25 innings.

"He has a good arm with a swing-and-miss slider at times," farm director Doug Harris said. "Because he was a college reliever, he is learning a great deal in a starting role."

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Grace said Suns pitching coach Chris Michalak, a fellow lefthander who made 61 major league starts, is teaching him about developing a routine.

"He has been a big help with me getting into that starter's mentality," Grace said. "It's more of a plan on how to go about attacking hitters. You have to adjust to what hitters are trying to do and set up your pitches for going different times through the batting order."

CAPITAL GAINS

• Righthander Brad Meyers, a fifth-round pick in 2007 out of Loyola Marymount, had 31 strikeouts and no walks in his first 29 innings at Double-A Harrisburg. He was 3-1, 2.45 with 27 hits allowed.

• High Class A Potomac went 7-10 on a 17-game road trip. After playing three road games and just before a scheduled 11-game trip, they had to move a three-game series with Frederick to the Keys' ballpark because of drainage issues.