OAKLAND -- A's general manager David Forst mentioned five candidates Friday for the season-opening starting rotation before he named Jesus Luzardo as part of the competition.Forst obviously wasn't listing the pitchers in order of ability.The path to success seems astonishingly clear for Luzardo, who's widely acknowledged as one of the
OAKLAND -- A's general manager David Forst mentioned five candidates Friday for the season-opening starting rotation before he named Jesus Luzardo as part of the competition.
Forst obviously wasn't listing the pitchers in order of ability.
The path to success seems astonishingly clear for Luzardo, who's widely acknowledged as one of the game's most talented pitching prospects. His fastball approaches 98 mph. His changeup paralyzes hitters. Moreover, he throws left-handed and is just 21 years old.
Offseason acquisitions Mike Fiers and Marco Estrada are the lone starters who appear certain to make Oakland's rotation. This represents opportunity for the likes of Daniel Mengden, Paul Blackburn, Chris Bassitt, Aaron Brooks and Frankie Montas. But sheer skill separates Luzardo from the other contenders.
Another year removed from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent as a high school senior in March 2016, Luzardo sustained an ascent that spanned three Minor League classifications last season. In 23 starts combined for Class A Advanced Stockton, Double-A Midland and Triple-A Nashville, Luzardo finished 10-5 with a 2.88 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 109 1/3 innings.
During an interview session held in conjunction with Saturday's FanFest at Jack London Square, Luzardo admitted that he's beginning to understand the mental aspects of his job.
"I go out there with a game plan instead of just going out there pitching," he said.
That partly explains the A's optimism regarding Luzardo, who was obtained from Washington in a five-player deal that also brought closer Blake Treinen to the Oakland organization on July 16, 2017.
Asked whether Luzardo has a legitimate chance to win a rotation spot, Forst said, "We're not going to rule it out. I think we've said that for a little while. If he's good enough, there's no reason not to have him in the rotation. It's obviously a big leap for someone who has thrown only a few innings at Triple-A. But he's going to get a nice, long look in Spring Training -- as long a look as you can get in 32 days, or however long we're down there."
Luzardo's Triple-A experience was the roughest aspect of his 2018 campaign. He posted a 7.31 ERA in four starts, though he maintained enough stuff to strike out 18 batters in 16 innings.
"I think he ran out of gas, a little," Forst said. "I think if you asked him that, he would probably admit that."
Luzardo indeed concurred, albeit somewhat reluctantly.
"I personally didn't feel it," he said. "I can maybe tell you that, watching video, I noticed that little bit of fatigue. ... You can kind of tell my pitches were hanging a little bit."
To adapt, Luzardo said that he focused on building stamina and endurance with his offseason workout program.
So does Luzardo consider himself ready to perform in the Majors?
"If you ask me, personally, I believe I am. But it's not really my decision," he said. "Whatever decision they make, it's for the best of the team and I have no problem with whatever they decide."