Luzardo peppers zone in sizzling spring debut

February 26th, 2020

PEORIA, Ariz. -- arrived with the A’s last September and he showcased a brief glimpse of the tantalizing potential that rocketed the left-hander up the Minor League ranks, culminating in him entering the 2020 season ranked as the club’s top prospect and No. 12 overall by MLB Pipeline.

Following his first appearance in the Cactus League in Tuesday's 9-6 loss to the Padres, that excitement may be hitting another notch.

After yielding a leadoff single, Luzardo retired the minimum over his two frames. Peppering the strike zone with his fastball -- which sat consistently between 95-97 mph -- his pacing on the hill was impressive. He closed out his performance with a hook that froze Padres infielder Gordon Beckham, which marked one of Luzardo's two strikeouts.

“I worked the fastballs on both sides of the plate, which was my main goal,” Luzardo said of his start.

He got the message from the A’s coaching staff coming into spring camp that he shouldn’t go full bore out of the gate.

“Not take it easy, but don’t start off like I did last year, going as hard as I could, trying to just make a name for myself,” Luzardo said. “Kind of just be smart about it, which is what I’m trying to do.”

“I think he was a little nervous his first time out,” manager Bob Melvin said. “But he certainly doesn’t show it, he’s very composed. He’s got great stuff and he knows what he can do. ... He’s very ahead of his time.”

After having made just three appearances in relief across three Minor League seasons, Luzardo entered the Oakland bullpen in 2019, and he quickly became one of its most devastating assets for opposing hitters to contend with.

“Whatever we ask him to do, he’s happy to do it and wants to contribute,” Melvin said. “Last year, he came up and pitched at the big league level for the first time in a role that he was unaccustomed to, and had a tremendous amount of success.”

A particular source of frustration when facing Luzardo is his curveball, which he utilized more than any other pitch at 29.8 percent of the time during his 12 regular-season innings last September. In the 51 times that he snapped off a curve, hitters failed to record a hit once. In the 12 at-bats that concluded with the pitch, 10 ended with a strikeout.

“I plan on [the curveball] to be [a key pitch],” Luzardo said. “It wasn’t as good [today] as it should be, but hopefully, step by step, [it’s] getting better.”

Melvin isn’t putting any restrictions on the 22-year-old, who has thrown more than 100 innings in a season just once, which came in 2018.

“We have not talked about any innings limit,” Melvin said, confirming that the same was true for fellow rookie left-hander A.J. Puk.

Odds and ends

• Lou Trivino turned the page Tuesday from a rough first spring outing on Saturday. Allowing three runs in just two-thirds of an inning would traditionally railroad a reliever’s ERA during the season, but in-game reps remain paramount over stats during the Cactus League. Trivino dealt a scoreless third inning against the Padres on Tuesday, working around a leadoff infield single and stolen base.

Particularly impressive to Melvin was that Trivino hit “97 [mph] with a good cutter. He threw a couple good curveballs, too.”

• Austin Allen corked a long solo home run to right field in the sixth, marking his first of the spring. Entrenched in a battle for the backup catcher’s job, Allen made his big league debut last season as a member of the Padres.

Jefferies injury update
Right-hander Daulton Jefferies departed Monday’s contest against the Brewers early due to what has been deemed a biceps strain. Jefferies, the team’s reigning Minor League Pitcher of the Year, had previously undergone Tommy John surgery in 2017, which initially caused concern.

“We’ll probably wait ... two days, before we get an MRI just to let everything calm down in there,” Melvin said. “Hopefully we caught a break. The way it looked when he was on the mound, after having Tommy John, it was a little ominous going out. But it’s not that area.”

Up next
Right-hander Frankie Montas makes his first Cactus League appearance on Wednesday as the A’s host the D-backs at 12:05 p.m. PT. Montas delivered a quality start in nine of his final 10 outings in 2019, with an 80-game suspension due to a performance-enhancing substance derailing his season. The Gold Glove corner-infield duo of Matt Olson and Matt Chapman are slated to anchor the lineup. Right-hander Luke Weaver will start for Arizona. Fans can listen live on an A’s-centric broadcast.