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Luzardo not feeling heat to win A's starting spot

Cotton, Puk progress in Tommy John recoveries; Chapman takes swings
February 12, 2019

MESA, Ariz. -- The A's most-talked-about prospect toed the rubber Tuesday for his first bullpen session of the spring, yet again prompting the big question:Will Jesus Luzardo be in the A's Opening Day rotation? :: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::Oakland, which had a strong showing watching Luzardo

MESA, Ariz. -- The A's most-talked-about prospect toed the rubber Tuesday for his first bullpen session of the spring, yet again prompting the big question:
Will Jesus Luzardo be in the A's Opening Day rotation?
:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
Oakland, which had a strong showing watching Luzardo at Fitch Park, won't have an answer for weeks. Speculation will run rampant in the meantime, while the 21-year-old southpaw attempts to drown out the noise.
"I hear it all the time, but I try not to really think about that," Luzardo said. "I come out there, do my thing and pretend it's just another day."
Luzardo impressed -- it's rare when he doesn't -- with his high-90s fastball and command of his devastating breaking pitches, but he knows he'll have to spend much of this spring studying sequencing and reading hitters -- tasks he struggled with when he broke into Triple-A late last year.
"Way more mature hitters there," Luzardo said. "They know what they're looking for, they're patient, they're not swinging at pitches that they shouldn't be. They're waiting for you to make mistakes."

The A's break camp for Tokyo in a month, leaving Luzardo only so much time to make his mark; there's thought that he's already the best pitcher Oakland has in tow, yet the A's won't hesitate to keep him at Triple-A -- where he's only made four starts -- if they feel he's not completely ready for big league competition.

Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada and Brett Anderson are expected to make up three-fifths of the A's rotation, leaving two jobs up for grabs between Luzardo and a slew of other candidates, including Daniel Mengden, Paul Blackburn, Chris Bassitt, Frankie Montas and Parker Bridwell.
"I don't feel too much pressure," Luzardo said. "I don't know how to explain it, but I don't sense any of that."
"It was good to see him on the mound the first time," A's manager Bob Melvin said, "and it will be even better to see him in a game."

Cotton, Puk take next big step
For so long, Tommy John patients Jharel Cotton and A.J. Puk have been resigned to the sidelines. That all changed Tuesday, when they took to the mound with teammates for their first bullpen stretching 60 feet, 6 inches since undergoing their surgeries last spring.
"It's been such a long time, so it felt like Christmas when we were out there," Cotton said. "I felt like I was a kid again. We're just happy to be back."
Cotton and Puk were instructed to throw at roughly 70 percent effort level, translating to 70-76 mph, as they gradually regain their strength.
Both pitchers are expected to be available to the A's midseason barring any setbacks.
Worth noting
Third baseman Matt Chapman, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, took 50 swings in the batting cages Monday, per Melvin. It was an encouraging day for Chapman, who has said he expects to be ready by the club's March 20 regular-season opener in Tokyo against the Mariners.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.