It's Taken Some Time, but Athletics' Luzardo is Finally Getting First Big League Start

John Hickey

Jesús Luzardo will start for the Oakland A’s Tuesday night, and it’s been a much-delayed process for him to get here.

He seemed a good bet to being in the 2019 starting rotation with Oakland when he was just 21. Then in spring training, he came down with a shoulder strain. Originally it was supposed to sideline him for between four and six weeks, but he wound up missing nearly half a season before getting back on the mound in the minor leagues.

When he eventually made it to the A’s in September, he was pitching in relief.

He seemed to be a great bet to be in the 2020 starting rotation this year, but that got shut down when baseball went dark for the better part of four months over the coronavirus pandemic.

He seemed to be a lock to be in the rotation when Major League Baseball finally got up and running in July, but he tested positive for COVID-19 and had to self-quarantine for 14 days before reporting. Once he did, he wasn’t quite stretched out enough to start.

His last relief appearance, however, saw him throw 67 pitches in 3.2 innings of relief, and he’s been judged ready to go.

So, it comes as no surprise when the left-hander says he’s “definitely very excited” to finally make his first big league start.

True, it will be in a Coliseum devoid of fans and he’ll be matched up against a Texas pitcher, Lance Lynn, who hasn’t allowed a run in either of his first two starts. None of that seems to be overly burdensome.

“I’m just glad to finally be able to get a start,” he said. “So, I’m just going to take it how I’ve been taking it, whether it’s out of the bullpen or a start. Even last year I didn’t really get a true start until the back end of the season in Triple-A. So, it’s been a while for me.”

Luzardo says his time in the bullpen should help him, particularly because he saw the Rangers in two of his first three big league appearances last September.

“I think that the mentality that I used (as a reliever) will definitely help me.”

While Luzardo is excited to start, his teammates aren’t far behind.

Chris Bassitt, who won’t be getting a start in this series, is a major Luzardo fan.

“I’ve said that he is one of the top pitchers in baseball, and I believe that,” Bassitt said. I think the way he can manipulate a fastball is impressive. He can pitch from 92 to 100 (mph) and he is able manipulate speeds from his two-seam to his four-seam, and he has a great off-speed pitch. He’s truly the total package.”

Second baseman Tony Kemp, who was with the Cubs last year and has only gotten to see Luzardo this year, said “the kid is an old soul.”

“What I’m kind of getting as is that he goes about his business and he has electric stuff,” Kemp said. “The more experienced that he gets on the mound, he’s going to be a player that he’s going to be a lock in the A’s rotation for sure.”

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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