Luzardo sets goals 'pretty high up there'

January 26th, 2020

OAKLAND -- had every right to return to his hometown of Parkland, Fla., this offseason and flex his new status as a big leaguer. He could easily have paraded around South Beach popping his collar. But the left-hander is true to his roots, and he’s not about to switch up on anyone who helped him reach this point.

Coming off a season in which he lived up to the hype of being the A’s No. 1 prospect, Luzardo’s offseason hasn’t gone much differently than the previous two. He still hung around his old stomping grounds at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, like he usually does, working out with the baseball team in preparation for the season. Only this time, Luzardo used his big league card to pull some strings for his community.

Luzardo teamed up with , a Rockies Minor League third baseman and childhood friend who was a teammate at Stoneman Douglas, to organize a youth baseball clinic in Parkland. The free event was held Jan. 11 at the high school’s baseball field and open to all Parkland Little Leaguers ages 8-12.

“It was pretty cool,” said Luzardo, who had 16 strikeouts and a 1.50 ERA over six appearances in his September callup to go along with three scoreless innings in the American League Wild Card Game. “I actually went back [on Thursday] and practiced with them. I go back a good amount.”

After endearing himself to the folks back home, Luzardo returned to the Bay Area looking to do the same with the Oakland Coliseum faithful as he prepares to embark on his first full season in the Majors. He already appears to be off to a good start, as he received some of the loudest cheers from the announced crowd of 32,000 supporters who descended upon Jack London Square on Saturday for A’s FanFest.

“For him to get a hand like that after only being with us for basically a month shows that our fan base is very aware,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s just a talented guy. There are very few younger players that I’ve been around that have walked into a Major League clubhouse with the confidence he’s had.

“I remember the first time I walked into one, I just wanted to stand in the corner and not say anything or be noticed. He walked in saying he was here to help.”

Whenever the 22-year-old lefty took the mound last season, whatever level it was, he found success. (He posted a 2.51 ERA over 43 innings in the Minors.) Really, his only opponent that posed a serious threat was his own health.

Luzardo dealt with separate shoulder and rotator cuff strains throughout 2019, delaying his big league promotion to September after he was at one point considered a strong candidate to make the starting rotation coming out of Spring Training. It’s those areas where the injuries occurred that Luzardo has been targeting during his offseason strength and conditioning training at Cressey Sports Performance in Jupiter, Fla., as he enters a 2020 campaign that likely will see him start the year in the A’s starting rotation.

“I’ve been doing the basic conditioning and lifting, some upper- and lower-body days,” Luzardo said. “Definitely focusing on my shoulder and rotator cuff, getting all that 100 percent. My body feels great right now, and, hopefully, that continues.

“I think the strength training, as well as focusing on shoulder stuff and fine-tuning some mechanical stuff, will be a big help in the long run.”

The A’s likely will keep a close eye on Luzardo’s workload early in the season, though they have not revealed a specific innings limit for him. Whatever it may be, Luzardo should still get plenty of opportunities to fulfill the early prognostications for him to be in the running for AL Rookie of the Year.

“Sometimes it’s tougher for a pitcher to do that, but we’ve got a whole host of guys that could be Rookies of the Year while others could win MVP,” Melvin said. “I don’t think it’s out of the question.” 

Luzardo’s goals for the upcoming season are more team-oriented, like helping the A’s reach the postseason for a third consecutive year, but that doesn’t mean he’s not trying to make a statement in his first full season in the big leagues. Luzardo also has his own personal goals, and they’re pretty lofty.

“I have my personal goals that I don’t put out there,” Luzardo said. “At the end of the day, I want to put the team in the best position possible. In terms of personal goals, I have some that are pretty high up there.”