'Glad to be home,' Luzardo wins Miami debut

August 3rd, 2021

MIAMI -- is no stranger to pressure. The former top prospect has 32 Major League appearances on his resume. He has another three in the postseason. But never had he felt more jittery than on Monday night at loanDepot park.

A local kid who grew up in Parkland, Fla., Luzardo picked up the win in his debut for the hometown Marlins, who beat the Mets, 6-3, to snap a four-game skid. Acquired last Wednesday from the A's for Starling Marte, Luzardo allowed three runs on four hits with three walks and five strikeouts across five innings.

“Being in front of a lot of family and friends, growing up watching this team, rooting for this team, just meant a lot,” said Luzardo, who had the 954 area code stitched on his glove. “I know it meant a lot to my parents, meant a lot to me. I'm glad to be home.”

The 23-year-old Luzardo started strong, working a perfect first on 17 pitches (11 strikes) and maxing out at 97.9 mph. But he began to struggle with his command in a two-run, 29-pitch second. Handed a four-run cushion thanks to Lewis Brinson's grand slam, he walked a pair of batters, including the pitcher, threw a run-scoring wild pitch and permitted two hits.

Luzardo settled down over his final three frames by retiring eight of his final 11 batters following a leadoff homer by Pete Alonso in the third.

“He went to my rival high school, so I'll let that slide,” said Brinson, who also hit a grand slam during a game his senior season at Coral Springs High School that Luzardo saw. “I wanted to get this win for him. I wanted him to have a good outing, and obviously get the ‘W.’ I know it's big being back home. You want him to feel comfortable, and you've got your whole family and friends here, so I know everybody was here cheering for him.”

Luzardo's batterymate, Alex Jackson, was also making his club debut on Monday. The Marlins acquired him in the Adam Duvall trade with the Braves on Friday. He went hitless in four at-bats. Jackson and Luzardo met on Sunday, but the rapport was immediate. He helped Luzardo utilize his four-pitch mix, in particular a changeup for the fourth-highest-percentage usage of his career.

That is a trend to monitor moving forward, since the changeup is a trademark pitch for the Marlins’ rotation. Sandy Alcantara and Trevor Rogers entered Monday ranked second and seventh, respectively, in run value for changeups among MLB pitchers. Luzardo noted that it was a pitch he had been getting away from at times in 2020 and at the beginning of '21.

“His confidence, his composure on the mound, his stuff is absolutely electric, as everyone knows,” Jackson said. “He was able to control his emotions. He was able to put his game face on, and even when things did get a little bit erratic, he came in the dugout and we had a conversation, and he was like, 'Hey, I'm good, I'm good to go, let's get back after it.' And that shows you how he is as a pitcher and how he is as a person, and the confidence allows me to sit back there and know that he has a plan and he has an idea on how he wants to attack and allows me to help him execute what he's trying to do.”

A Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School alumnus, Luzardo entered the series opener 5-6 with a 4.79 ERA and two saves in 31 games (15 starts) in the Majors from 2019-21. The southpaw missed a month this season after sustaining a hairline fracture in his left pinkie by hitting his hand on a table while playing video games. Upon his return, the A’s used him out of the bullpen. After posting a 9.90 ERA, he received a demotion to the Minors, where he was when Miami dealt for him.

Luzardo joins an already deep pitching organization. Besides Alcantara and Rogers, the Marlins have rookie Zach Thompson, Pablo López (right rotator cuff strain), Elieser Hernandez (right quad strain) and Cody Poteet (right MCL sprain); a trio of Top 100 Prospects in Sixto Sánchez (No. 10), Max Meyer (No. 19) and Edward Cabrera (No. 50); Marlins No. 21 prospect Jake Eder with the second-lowest ERA in the Double-A South; and arms with MLB experience in Braxton Garrett (No. 7), Nick Neidert (No. 9) and Paul Campbell (No. 24).

“‘Wow,’” acting manager James Rowson said. “That's what I thought. His stuff is electric. You watch him throw, and you see why people consider him to be special.”