MESA, Ariz. -- As part of MLB Pipeline's visit to all 30 Spring Training camps, we'll sit down with prospects and get to know them a little better. At Athletics camp, it was No. 2 prospect Jesus Luzardo. Luzardo had Tommy John surgery as a senior at Stoneman Douglas High
MESA, Ariz. -- As part of MLB Pipeline's visit to all 30 Spring Training camps, we'll sit down with prospects and get to know them a little better. At Athletics camp, it was No. 2 prospect Jesus Luzardo.
Luzardo had Tommy John surgery as a senior at Stoneman Douglas High (Parkland, Fla.) in 2016, though that didn't stop the Nationals from drafting him in the third round and signing him for an above-slot $1.4 million. A year later, they traded him to the A's as part of a deal for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. Kept on tight pitch counts during his pro debut last summer, he gave a glimpse at his upside by recording a 1.66 ERA and a 48/5 K/BB ratio in 43 1/3 innings at the Rookie and Short Season levels.
:: MLB Pipeline Spring Training reports ::
MLB Pipeline: Your Draft year experience was different than most. You came into 2016 regarded as one of the most polished high school left-handers available, then your fastball starts hitting 97 mph -- then you blow out your elbow. What were you expectations by the time the Draft arrived?
Luzardo: I was committed to Miami and coming into the year, I thought I was going to Miami. I got a little stronger and my velocity jumped, and that opened my eyes about the Draft. I did a lot of work on my strength and it just happened. I wasn't trying to throw harder and when I heard 97, I was kind of shocked. When I got hurt, I kind of just knew something was up. It didn't bother me before. It was a one-pitch thing. Teams were telling me they were still interested, but in the back of my mind, I was going to go to Miami for three years. Then the Nationals called me on Day 2. When they came calling, they told me about their track record of taking guys with Tommy John surgery [Lucas Giolito, Erick Fedde]. It caught me off guard because I had never talked to them.
• Pipeline's Athletics Spring Training report
MLB Pipeline: Everyone I've ever asked about Tommy John surgery talks about how grueling the rehabilitation process is. How was it for you?
Luzardo: I think it was 13 months. It was tough. I threw my first bullpen at the one-year mark, and being off the mound for a year was tough. The rehab was tough but it gets you in the best shape of your life. It gets your whole body strong.
MLB Pipeline: You finally make your pro debut and you pitch three games, and then the Nationals trade you along with infielder Sheldon Neuse and big leaguer Blake Treinen to get Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson from the A's last July. What was your reaction?
Luzardo: I was actually playing golf on an off-day with friends when I got the call. It was weird, but at the same time I looked at it as a good opportunity. The A's have a good young team coming up and I feel like I'll have a good chance here. But at first it was weird, definitely a crazy feeling.
MLB Pipeline: The scouting report on you is a fastball up to 98 mph with natural sink, a curveball you show feel for adding and subtracting from and a changeup that fades and sinks. What's your best pitch?
Luzardo: Definitely my changeup. That's been my go-to since my freshman year in high school. A pitching coach of mine growing up, Bruce Charlebois, started teaching me at 9 years old and as I got older, he taught me the changeup and the grip and I got comfortable with all of that. The changeup I feel I can use in any count. After my fastball, it's the pitch I like to use the most. It's a lot of fun.
MLB Pipeline: Stoneman Douglas, your high school, was involved in a horrible tragedy on Feb. 14, when a gunman killed 17 people and wounded 16 others. I saw that you started a fundraiser for a scholarship in memory of slain athletic director Chris Hixon. How has the shooting affected you? How much did it mean to you to see MLB have all of its teams wear Stoneman Douglas caps in their first Spring Training games?
Luzardo: I was supposed to work out there on the day of the shooting and I got a text from a coach telling me not to come, there was a shooter. It was tough. The first couple of days away from home, everyone was going to the funerals and vigils, and being physically present is not the same as being far away. I'm trying to help. I put together the YouCaring campaign to support the family of Chris Hixon, who gave me advice and helped me at Douglas. I'm still talking to some guys on the baseball team, just trying to see what I can do from afar. It was definitely a great gesture from MLB. I know it went a long way with my people back home. They appreciated it and they appreciated the support. It made me happy that they recognized it and it brought joy to them too.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.