Prospect Luzardo fans 6, continues strong camp

A's left-hander hasn't allowed an earned run in 5 2/3 spring innings

March 6th, 2019

MESA, Ariz. -- A’s top prospect Jesus Luzardo continues to impress, as he struck out six of the 10 batters he faced in 2 2/3 scoreless innings in a 4-1 win over the Rangers at Hohokam Stadium on Tuesday afternoon.

The wondrous lefty worked around baserunners with ease -- including a leadoff walk in the first inning and a two-out walk in the second -- even when running into hitters' counts. In fact, this was when Luzardo was at his best, thanks to an elite changeup.

“I’ve been like that since I was younger,” said Luzardo, the A's No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline. “It’s definitely a confidence booster knowing I have that in my back pocket, and it’s a lot of help I can throw 3-1, 3-2 and it doesn’t have to be a straight fastball.”

This was Luzardo’s first start following two relief appearances, but the results have been the same throughout. He’s yet to allow an earned run in 5 2/3 innings this spring, fanning 10 and giving up only two hits.

The A's have subsequently kept Luzardo in the mix for the final rotation spot. Luzardo is only 21 and has minimal experience at the Triple-A level, but that might not matter.

Still, other pitchers are in play, including two (Frankie Montas and Aaron Brooks) who are out of options. Paul Blackburn and Chris Bassitt are also battling for the same job.

“He’s so aware of what he wants to do, and you really like to see that,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Luzardo. “You’ve got a veteran guy like [Nick] Hundley behind the plate, and he’s shaking at 3-2 changeups. That’s a big part that impresses me, but so does his stuff, and every time he’s on the mound he looks more and more comfortable.”

Luzardo totaled 51 pitches, throwing mostly without his breaking ball. Not that it mattered. He continued to refine his fastball command -- a priority of his this spring -- while flashing that enviable changeup.

“Today, I did miss a good amount, but I’m definitely making strides with it,” Luzardo said. “That’s going to help me in the long run. I’m just going to keep working on that.”

“I think when you have three pitches like that and you don’t feel great about one, you have two you can go to, and there’s a nice little gap between the two and they both look alike,” Melvin said. “His fastball and his changeup look exactly alike.

“It’s easy to get outs in the Minor Leagues with breaking stuff. He’s going to be able to go out there exclusively with his fastball, too, and get outs. At the big league level, you need to get ahead, you need to establish the fastball, and he’s doing that now.”

Melvin was also impressed with Luzardo’s ability to hold the running game. Luzardo's baseball intellect, he suggested, is well beyond his years.

“You look for the nerves or whatever, first big league camp, and we haven’t seen a sign of it,” Melvin said. “Comes in the dugout between innings, very cognizant of what’s going on, has conversations with the catchers, the pitching coaches. A lot of times, younger guys, it goes in one ear and out the other, but he’s locked in.”

Right-hander Daniel Mengden, who is expected to slide into the fourth starting spot, pitched later and went four innings, allowing one run on one hit and three walks with two strikeouts.

Worth noting

Designated hitter Khris Davis, who has yet to appear in a Cactus League game because of a left calf strain, could make his debut by the end of the week, Melvin said. Davis is set to run the bases Wednesday, marking his final test.

Up next

Brett Anderson will make his second start of the spring when the A's travel to Peoria, Ariz., to take on the Mariners on Wednesday at 5:40 p.m. PT. Anderson pitched three scoreless innings against the Cubs last Thursday.