Luzardo makes his case for final rotation spot

March 10th, 2019

MESA, Ariz. -- Jesus Luzardo won’t be accompanying the A’s to Tokyo this week, but there’s a good reason for it.

Oakland still considers him in play for the final rotation spot, so Luzardo will remain in the desert to stay on his regular throwing schedule. Upon the club's return, the lefty will have the opportunity to start one of the Bay Bridge Series exhibition games against the Giants.

“We just didn’t have the innings for him there,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “It doesn’t mean he’s being sent down.

“I’m sure he’s a little bit disappointed, but I think he’s going to feel it when he pitches in a Bay Bridge Series game, so it’s just about keeping him consistent and not bringing him and pitching him over a long period of time. This is a guy we really like. We want to make sure he gets his innings in.”

Luzardo, just 21, has consistently impressed this spring. The A’s No. 1 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, toed the rubber against the Giants in split-squad action on Sunday at Hohokam Stadium, allowing one run on four hits and one walk with five strikeouts over four innings in Oakland's 5-4 walk-off win.

Luzardo had an eventful first, but he navigated his way around traffic with the ease of a seasoned pitcher. He walked his first batter on a full count and he yielded a single to his next. Unfazed, Luzardo struck out Pablo Sandoval before surrendering his first run of the spring on another base hit. Right fielder Stephen Piscotty caught the second out and doubled off Aramis Garcia at first to end the inning.

“It was definitely important to get through that and experience it in Spring Training because later on in the season it’s going to happen a lot,” Luzardo said, “so it was good to have that and then see how I react to it.”

“I thought it was a really good learning curve right there,” catcher Nick Hundley said. “He didn’t have his best stuff, really. The other times I’ve caught him, he’s been sharp from the get-go, but today the first inning or two, he wasn’t very crisp and then he did a really good job of really starting in rhythm, and that’s good to see, too.”

It was cruise control from there; Luzardo retired each of his next six batters and he worked his way around a pair of singles in the fourth, exiting at 62 pitches.

Through 9 2/3 innings this spring, Luzardo has allowed one run and struck out 15.

“I thought he was great, again,” Melvin said. “He got off to a little bit of a rough start as far as balls and strikes, but it doesn’t seem to bother him. He’s got really good feel for what he wants to do.”

“His feel for pitching at that young age is definitely impressive, and he can back it up with the stuff that’s front of the rotation stuff,” Hundley said. “And when you back that up with the mindset and the aggressiveness, it’s the total package.”

That feel, at such a young age, is rare. That’s why the A’s remain open to the idea of starting the season with the hard-throwing Luzardo, even though he’s pitched just four games at the Triple-A level. Right-handers Aaron Brooks and Frankie Montas, who are out of options, are his biggest competition.

“He could be a front of the rotation guy for a long time,” Hundley said. “His mindset, his ability to be aggressive in the zone ... and his arm is lightning fast, so he’s got a lot of talent, and then when he gets in there and he’s aggressive like that, sky’s the limit for him.”