OAKLAND -- One of baseball's top pitching prospects will soon descend upon the A's spring complex in Mesa, Ariz., and he'll warrant a stream of attention for weeks to come.Lefty Jesus Luzardo hopes to prove the hype is real. It just might land him a spot in Oakland's Opening Day
OAKLAND -- One of baseball's top pitching prospects will soon descend upon the A's spring complex in Mesa, Ariz., and he'll warrant a stream of attention for weeks to come.
Lefty Jesus Luzardo hopes to prove the hype is real. It just might land him a spot in Oakland's Opening Day starting rotation.
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The A's are prepared to award Luzardo, the club's top prospect according to MLB Pipeline, a big league job should they feel he's ready when camp breaks. The need on Oakland's staff is abundantly clear.
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Three spots in the A's rotation are up for grabs behind veteran right-handers Mike Fiers and Marco Estrada. Luzardo's competition includes Daniel Mengden, Paul Blackburn, Parker Bridwell, Frankie Montas, Chris Bassitt, Tanner Anderson and Aaron Brooks.
"I think anything's open," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He could potentially start for us, he could potentially go down and get a little more seasoning in Triple-A. We'll just have to take it day by day. But I know we're awfully excited about having him this year, and I would be shocked if he's not with us at some point in time."
The question, then, isn't whether Luzardo will make his Major League debut this year, rather when.
Luzardo, who can run his fastball up to 98 mph and paralyze hitters with his changeup, has deemed himself ready for the Majors.
"If you ask me, personally, I believe I am. But it's not really my decision," Luzardo said. "Whatever decision they make, it's for the best of the team and I have no problem with whatever they decide."
Service time will not be a factor. A's general manager David Forst, who acquired Luzardo from the Nationals in the trade that sent relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to Washington in July 2017, has said as much numerous times during the offseason.
"If he's good enough, there's no reason not to have him in the rotation," Forst said. "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."
Luzardo has made a rapid recovery after undergoing Tommy John surgery as a high school senior in 2016. The southpaw started '18 in Class A Advanced Stockton but worked his way through the Minors and made four starts in Triple-A to end the year. He made a combined 23 starts between Stockton, Double-A Midland and Triple-A, finishing 10-5 with a 2.88 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 109 1/3 innings.
Only 16 of Luzardo's 2018 innings came at the Triple-A level, which is why the A's will exercise caution when deciding whether he'll start the season with Oakland or in the Minors.
"It's really up to us to try to identify when he's ready," Melvin said. "You look at the stuff and you would say he's probably right now. But we're the custodians of his career too, so we want to make sure once he's at the big league level, we don't throw too much at him and have to send him back down and mess with his confidence."
Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.