No Innings Restrictions for Athletics' Rookie Starters Jesus Luzardo & A.J. Puk

John Hickey

Having the start of the Major League Baseball season pushed back three months wasn’t what anyone wanted, bit coming out of the COVID-19 coronavirus-induced lockdown, some teams are finding their game plans to have been altered for the better.

Take, for example, the Oakland A’s. Had the season started as scheduled on March 26, the A’s were planning on nursing their two rookie left-handed starting pitchers, Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk, limiting their innings pitched.

That made sense for a 162-game season. For a 60-game season, not so much.

“It’s a shorter season now, and where you would have been looking at having innings pitched limits, for guys like Luzardo and Puk, that’s just not the case anymore,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said Thursday from his home in Arizona.

“We’re not thinking that they’re going to throw complete games the first time out, but in a 60-game season, we’re thinking there aren’t going to be any innings restrictions.”

Puk, the club’s first-round pick in the 2016 draft out of Florida, missed all of 2018 following Tommy John surgery. He returned last year, throwing just 36.2 innings last year, 11.1 of those in relief after a late August promotion to Oakland.

Luzardo, who came to the A’s in the mid-2017 trade of Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to the Nationals, missed two months at the start of the 2019 season after suffering a rotator cuff strain, then was back on the injury list after just five games after developing a Grade 2 lat strain that cost him another month.

The lefty wound up throwing just 55 innings, 12 of those in the big leagues after a September promotion.

Were the 2020 season anything close to normal in the length, having a 25-year-old like Puk, who has just 77 professional innings, and a 22-year-old like Luzardo, who has 136 pro innings, teams would keep their innings down to something in the 150-inning range.

Famously, the Nationals shut down Stephen Strasburg in the middle of the 2012 pennant race even after he had 15 wins and had developed into the Washington ace. He’d come into the season with 167.2 pro innings, and after he reached 159.1 innings on Sept. 7, the Nationals shut him down. Washington lost some ground on what hand been a 6.5-game lead after he was pulled, but still won the NL East that season.

Puk and Luzardo won’t come anywhere close to that. A 60-game season played out over 66 days would result in 12 or 13 starts. And even at seven innings per start – a level unlikely for either man to reach – they would finish the regular season with something in the range of about 90 innings.

These are two of the best young starting pitching prospects in the game. Luzardo is ranked No. 9 in the game by Baseball America while Puk is ranked No. 23.

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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