Jesús Luzardo got a late start to the 2020 MLB season when he tested positive for the coronavirus before Summer Camp.
His first season as a starter was much anticipated, and he posted a 4.12 ERA and 1.27 WHIP with 59 strikeouts in just as many innings.
With a shortened 60-game season, Luzardo only was able to make nine starts (along with three relief appearances), but A’s manager Bob Melvin expects a big role for the 21-year-old lefty in 2021.
“We expect him to be a top of the rotation guy as we always have,” Melvin said on Thursday. “He threw some dominant games and had some tougher games that he’s not used to. He’s used to getting outs pretty easily, and last year especially as we went along and played some of the better teams in the postseason, I think some of the struggles he had at times, he looks at as a learning experience.”
Luzardo’s confidence is something that is mentioned over and over again. It’s not an in-your-face type of confidence by any means, but that’s what makes it better. His pitching speaks for itself. Especially with the movement on his fastball.
Luzardo's fastball ranks in the 79th percentile in the league with the way it moves vertically and averages in the 95.5 mph range on a good day.
“I don’t worry about confidence with Jesús,” Melvin said. “So I think he’ll look at that as a learning experience, how to do things a little bit differently, he has the weapons to do things differently, I think he’ll actually gain confidence going forward, knowing what he has to work on, and what he needs to do, so very high ceiling. He’ll pitch at the top of our rotation for some time hopefully and that’ll start with next year.”
Luzardo’s presence in the starting rotation was never in question. Melvin said the plan always was to have him in the top of the rotation. Now, they can finally execute it.
“I know his expectations are high of himself,” Melvin said. “We have high expectations of him as well.”
As far as the other young southpaw, A.J. Puk, is concerned, he’s on schedule to be part of the starting rotation as well in 2021. But Melvin said with Puk’s big-league experience coming out of the bullpen, he could take on a reliever role if needed.
Puk expects to be ready by the regular spring training timeline.