Lucchesi hopes unique routine leads to starting job

Southpaw optimizing body with help from holistic therapist "strong as a Shaolin monk"

February 23rd, 2024

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Before last season, said, pitching six or seven innings would make him feel like he’d been hit by a truck. Bouncing back after game days became increasingly difficult. As Lucchesi approached his 30th birthday, he understood that survival in professional baseball would require change.

So he placed a phone call to an old friend, Francesco Rossi. Back when Lucchesi played for the Padres, Rossi had been teammate Eric Hosmer’s holistic therapist, advising him on all things health and wellness. Unable to afford much more than a massage or two at that point in his career, Lucchesi limited his dealings. But the two stayed in touch, and in Lucchesi’s time of need, he hired Rossi to transform his routine.

Rossi moved into Lucchesi’s home in Syracuse, where the left-hander was pitching at Triple-A. He cooked for Lucchesi, making dishes centered around grass-fed meat two or three times per week and fish the rest of the time. On Rossi’s recommendation, Lucchesi eschewed coffee in favor of tea and spring water. He gave up candy and ice cream. He soaked in cold tubs almost every day, after learning that such plunges can help the body burn fat. He dabbled in Chinese medicine.

Rossi, who was born in the United States but raised in Italy, says he unlocked Lucchesi’s body through a unique massage technique using fingers “strong as a Shaolin monk.”

“My method is very intense,” Rossi said in a telephone interview.

For Lucchesi, it was effective. From the start of last Spring Training to the start of this one, he lost 19 pounds.

“I had a belly, and I was tired of it,” Lucchesi said. “It kind of made me depressed a little bit. I didn’t like seeing myself like that. So I just looked myself in the mirror and said, ‘Let’s go. How bad do you want it?’”

At 30 years old, in his second full season back from Tommy John surgery and two years from potentially becoming a free agent, Lucchesi wants it bad. Even before teammate Kodai Senga suffered a shoulder strain that will take him out of the Opening Day rotation, Lucchesi had been intending to make the Mets’ rotation decisions difficult. Now that a roster spot is there for the taking, he hopes his work over the past year will help him not only to win it, but to establish himself as a full-time Major League player.

“I want to make my money, man, and have a long career,” Lucchesi said. “I feel like I’m close. I feel like I showed them what I can do.”

Much of what Lucchesi has shown took place during two distinct stretches last year. In April, he fired seven shutout innings in a spot start in San Francisco, then returned to the mound six days later, pitched into the sixth inning and helped the Mets win again. In August and September, he went undefeated over four big league starts, producing a 1.48 ERA.

But Lucchesi was not the same pitcher in the Minors, posting a 4.74 ERA over 14 starts and one relief appearance at Syracuse. He believes the Automated Ball-Strike system, which was in place at Triple-A last summer, hurt him. In Lucchesi’s mind, the Major League results better represent him.

“I understand the game now,” Lucchesi said. “I’m not saying I’m the best ever, but I just get it, you know? I feel like I’ve grown a lot. I feel like I’ve gotten a little wiser, a little smarter pitcher in all aspects.”

Optimizing his body is an indicator of that. Lucchesi still hopes to add muscle and strength to his frame, which is down to 216 pounds. Having learned Rossi’s techniques, Lucchesi and his girlfriend take turns cooking healthy meals at home. Rossi, meanwhile, lives just down the Interstate in West Palm Beach, Fla. and plans to travel to New York this summer for additional massage sessions.

“It’s an important time in his life where he really wants to get going,” Rossi said. “That makes me so excited and happy. He really wants to get on a roll and do some really great things, and he’s getting ready for that.”