Jess Luzardo quickly rose to the big league stage in 2019 not only because of his elite pitches, but also because of a confident many players don’t show their age. This June, Luzardo was selected to Triple-A Las Vegas as those two powers began to waver.
The 23-year-old phenom has not only been pegged as a regular part of the A’s rotation, but as an arm with a repertoire as one of baseball’s most prominent players. A hopes Luzardo’s trip to pitch with the Las Vegas Aviators could get him back on track after a few months of turmoil at the big league level. But what do they need to see before he returns?
“Most fastball commands,” said AK Farm Director Ed Sprague Jr. “Pitching under control. They have excellent secondary pitches. If he can command the fastball and work his way up the count, he will dominate. ”
Incomplete fastball commands and pitch use overwhelm Luzardo in 38 Rocky Big League innings this year; He often gave up on his fastball and relied on his off-speed offerings – his variations and curveballs – when the innings came to a halt. If Luzardo couldn’t throw them for the strike, the big league hitters would just fastball. Opposing hitters batted .333 from his four-seamer with .784 slugging percentage and .342 from his sinker with .500 slugging percentage.
The struggle with his fastball command escalated to a 6.87 ERA in 13 games. He suffered a pinky finger fracture while playing video games during his 2021 sophomore season – it sidelined him for the entire month of May. In six starts before injury, Luzardo had a 5.79 ERA. After rookie James Caprillion built his Rookie of the Year candidacy out of rotation in his place, Luzardo was moved to the bullpen – where he could find the use of his pitch in small doses. But command issues only escalated when he put together a 9.90 ERA in seven appearances.
Luzardo’s height was high; He looked skilful and badass when he came out of the bullpen in April after returning from injury in six scoreless outings against the Minnesota Twins and back-to-back scoreless outings against the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners. After conceding six home runs and 11 earned runs in his final final appearance, his confidence was shaken and it became clear that Luzardo needed room to learn – as pitching coach Scott Emerson puts it – how to pitch and not just throw. .
Las Vegas’ short range and dry air haven’t been kind to most pitchers, and it has been brutal for Luzardo since he was picked on June 21. He has followed both his scoreless outings with 7 runs. But the A’s officials see some improvement, especially in his last outing on 19 July where he tackled six innings of one run with seven strikes. Luzardo was perfect through the first three innings and bowled his fastball with only a few bats.
“It was positive. He had a tough time before and was much better yesterday,” manager Bob Melvin said on Tuesday. “It’s always hard to evaluate performance in Vegas, but when they have their good ones, you know That it had to be good because the ball flies a little bit in the air. So hopefully he can build it. ”
Luzardo will need to make a few consecutive outings before returning to the big league side in the latter half of the season. If Luzardo is firing with confidence, he can uplift the pitching staff and solidify a bullpen that Jake Dieckman and most recently Sam Moll have got as their left-handed substitutes. However, right-handed pitcher Deolis Guerra has become a left-arm specialist, with his left-handed opponent batting .111 against him.
But while a front office is certainly looking to bullpen help in the business market, a consistent and more confident Luzardo may be a quick fix.
“When he’s confident and pitching well, he makes a difference,” said Melvin.