Luzardo's promise turning into dominance

August 8th, 2022

CHICAGO -- The Marlins acquired from the A’s for outfielder Starling Marte on July 28, 2021, just two days before the Trade Deadline. It was a move meant to help Miami bolster its starting rotation for the future.

On Sunday afternoon, Luzardo showed what he can bring to this team in the Marlins’ 3-0 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

“I know we’ve been struggling a little bit,” Luzardo said. “And I feel like for me, it was kind of getting over that hump, going back out there [and] getting more than five innings. So I was glad I was able to do that and keep us in the game.”

In just his second start back after nearly three months on the injured list, Luzardo delivered one of the best outings of his young career. The 24-year-old southpaw allowed just one hit and one walk with six strikeouts across seven scoreless innings.

Luzardo went on the injured list on May 15 with a left forearm strain, and he was transferred to the 60-day IL one month later. Two outings into his return, Luzardo was happy to be back.

“I was going crazy on the IL, especially [with] that frustrating injury,” Luzardo said. “So just being back with the guys and being in the clubhouse, being around everyone, I feel like [it gets] my spirits up.”

Luzardo looked as sharp as ever, and his seven innings tied his career high.

“He mixed his pitches well, kept us off the barrel,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “He had that changeup working pretty early on. Even when he fell behind, he was able to execute that pitch over the plate. Pretty good guy, pretty nasty stuff. Just tip your cap.”

Once the A’s top prospect and No. 12 overall in 2019, Luzardo has the potential to be a key part of the Marlins’ rotation for years to come. After finishing with a 6.61 ERA in 25 outings with Oakland and Miami last year, he has taken a big step forward in ‘22.

“Jesús has got really good stuff,” manager Don Mattingly said. “He at one point was a highly regarded prospect, and then maybe he got off track there for a minute. Credit to [pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre] and the work that Jesús has done and what he did over the winter.”

The Marlins already boast two quality pitchers in Sandy Alcantara and Pablo López. Alcantara is having a career year with a National League-leading 1.88 ERA. López has shown that he can be the No. 2 guy. That one-two punch has a combined 2.62 ERA, and Miami is 26-18 when they start.

The rest of the Marlins’ starters have a 4.89 ERA.

But as the rotation gets healthier, the Marlins are starting to see the potential of this unit. Edward Cabrera returned on Friday from nearly two months on the injured list and delivered five hitless innings. Then, Luzardo did his best to one-up his teammate Sunday.

“We have a lot of good arms,” catcher Jacob Stallings said. “We just need to keep them healthy and keep them on the field, because when we do that, we’re running five or six dudes out there that can really get outs and eat innings.”

“I see a lot of talent,” Luzardo said. “... We’re all young, but we all want to go out there and compete, and we all do what it takes to be great.”

Throw in Trevor Rogers, who will look to find his rookie success when he returns from the IL, and Braxton Garrett, who has a 3.88 ERA in 11 starts this year, and there’s a lot of potential with this group.

“What’s nice is to get our rotation kind of back together,” Mattingly said. “The injuries have allowed Braxton to come up and kind of establish himself. We’re working on some things with Trevor right now. But just to get that group back together, that’s one of the things I was really happy that Pablo stayed at the Trade Deadline. We know that moving forward, at least our rotation is intact, and it gives us a chance to stay competitive on a daily basis.”