Luzardo joins A's at Summer Camp workouts

Left-hander could open 2020 season in Oakland's bullpen

July 18th, 2020

OAKLAND -- Cleared to begin working out with the A’s after testing negative for COVID-19 twice at least 24 hours apart, rejoined his teammates for Summer Camp on Friday at the Oakland Coliseum.

Luzardo, Oakland’s No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, kept his arm in good shape during the baseball shutdown by maintaining a regular throwing program back home in Florida. Missing the first two weeks of Summer Camp due to a positive test for COVID-19, Luzardo remained symptom-free while he was away from the club in the Bay Area, and he did as many home exercises as he could to prepare for his return.

After throwing a 30-pitch bullpen session on Friday, Luzardo will get two days of rest, then throw to hitters on Monday prior to the A’s first exhibition game vs. the Giants.

“Today was amazing. Probably the best day of 2020 for me, by far,” Luzardo said after his bullpen session. “I was going crazy locked up in a room. Being able to get back out here at the Coliseum around the guys was a lot of fun.”

Never feeling ill at any point in the past two weeks, Luzardo often found himself frustrated as he sat in his room, watching his teammates practice from afar.

“It wasn’t anyone’s fault. I tested positive and had to wait,” Luzardo said. “But it was frustrating, because I felt good. Baseball, for me, is an escape to get rid of all my problems, so it was something I needed.”

Over the past two weeks, Luzardo found a local field in the Bay Area where he set up a net and threw regularly on a program devised by the A’s training staff. He also set up a semi-gym in his room with resistance bands and tried to simulate his usual strength training as best as he could.

“I was just playing catch by myself and long-tossing. If I had to get off the mound, I got off the mound,” Luzardo said. “I figured out ways to get little lifts in my room while listening to my body. If I was feeling good that day, I’d get after it. If I was a little tired, I took it lighter. I definitely tried to stay in shape.”

It's a longshot that Luzardo will open the regular season in the A's starting rotation with only a week to ramp up to Opening Day. But manager Bob Melvin was optimistic that the club will find a spot for him on the 30-man roster and likely utilize the 22-year-old lefty as a reliever.

“He’s lobbying to get in there right away,” Melvin said. “We’ll take it easy on him the first couple of times out. The fact that he’s been able to throw and keep up the pace as far as pitches go allows us to still have hope to have him here when we start the season.”

Even with a 60-game regular season, Melvin said he is confident that Luzardo will get built up to a starter’s workload and moved into the rotation at some point if the need arises. For now, the spot in the rotation originally expected to go to Luzardo will now be filled by Chris Bassitt.

Having shined out of the bullpen for the A’s in 2019 (1.50 ERA and 16 strikeouts over 12 innings), Luzardo could once again prove to be a valuable multi-inning threat as a reliever. His return also puts the A’s at full strength, as they remain free of injuries to this point in camp.

“The experience I gained last year coming out of the bullpen, I think that’s going to help me a lot, especially early in this year,” Luzardo said. “I feel good right now, and I’m ready for whatever they ask me to do.”