Athletics

Jesus Luzardo Q&A: A's rookie finds rare benefit from MLB season delay

Jesus Luzardo Q&A: A's rookie finds rare benefit from MLB season delay

For what it’s worth, A’s pitcher Jesús Luzardo had dominated during his three spring training starts. Eight innings of work that yielded only four hits and one run, to go along with 13 strikeouts.

A high bar, but not a surprising result for the 22-year-old who made his MLB debut last season, and was trusted for three scoreless innings of work in the AL Wild Card Game.

On Friday, we FaceTimed with the top prospect in Oakland’s organization, who is currently sheltering in his native Florida.

NBC Sports California: On what he’s most excited to learn about Major League Baseball:

Luzardo: “I’m just really excited to get a full year as a starter. Last year I came up as a reliever. I liked it, and enjoyed it a lot. But at the end of the day, I’m a starter at heart. I’m excited to see what it takes to be a starter for a full season. I think I’m prepared, and kind of anxious to get out there and go.“

On benefitting from regular workout sessions with his Florida neighbor Mike Fiers:

“I’d say I am, just in terms of training and throwing. We talk about different pitches, and I’m working on some stuff. I think I’ve picked up a lot from him, and hopefully, he’s picked up a little bit from me. I’ve known him forever, the fact that we have this time, working out every day, time to bond and certain things, it’s a really good experience.”

While getting signs from the catcher, Luzardo’s entire face is usually covered by his glove. What’s happening behind there?

“It kind of depends from pitch to pitch. It’s really not that much. It’s more of me and my mentality. Growing up, I was taught tunnel vision, and not see anything but the catcher. And that’s something that helped me out in the wild-card game, and when I was closing a game in Seattle. It’s something I like to do every time I’m out there.“

On the trademark look of wearing prescription Oakley glasses while he pitches:

“I’ve looked into contact lenses. I’ve never used them, so it’s kind of a new thing. My glasses are kind of like a routine for me. When I pitch or throw without them, it’s kind of just weird. It’s more of a comfort thing, but at the same time, I struggle to see the catchers’ signs at night. That’s why most of the time I wear them to see the signs, or a high fly ball. Anything like that, I just want to be sure.“

Any other rituals or superstitions that you could share?

“My routine before every start or every outing is basically the same. I have a certain time that I get in the hot tub … 37 minutes before I go out and throw.”

How does Luzardo generate so much velocity from a smaller throwing frame?

“I really didn’t start throwing hard until I was probably a Junior in high school. I kind of grew into my body and started getting more serious in the weight room. It was really taking the weight room seriously. I’m not tall, not lanky, I kind of just have to focus on my lower half and having a strong core. A lot of stuff that goes into making a pitcher who he is.“

How Jesús is managing the life of isolation and quarantine:

“I’m just basically trying to stay home much as possible. Trying to stay busy, stay active, while being safe. My basic routine is wake up, do a little run or workout, then stay at home all day.“

[RELATED: Shooty compares Luzardo to two-time Cy Young winner]

Any possible bright sides of all the negative life situations, lately?

“A good takeaway for me, is definitely being closer to my family now than I have been in the past couple years. Because when I’m back in the offseason, it’s always working out, or at a friend's house. Obviously family means a lot to me so I’m close with them, but you don’t get to spend as much quality time. The fact that you form a closer bond: I’ve been having family Zoom chats lately, and that’s something that we never did before.“

Why A's will greatly miss Ramón Laureano while he serves suspension

Why A's will greatly miss Ramón Laureano while he serves suspension

A's manager Bob Melvin wasn't sure if he'd have Ramón Laureano in center field for Wednesday's game against the Los Angeles Angels. Laureano is appealing a six-game suspension for his role in Sunday's A's-Houston Astros brawl, and Oakland expected to learn about his appeal before first pitch at Angel Stadium.

But Laureano started, and the A's were beyond thrilled to have him in the lineup for Wednesday's 8-2 win. He drove in a pair of runs and saved at least one, casually robbing a home run from Angels outfielder Brian Goodwin in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Laureano was just as happy, but he toned it down -- as he usually does -- in a video conference with reporters after the game.

“Yeah, I mean I didn’t pay attention too much, I was ready to play since I woke up,” Laureano said of potentially not playing Wednesday.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Laureano has a way of making these incredible plays and acting as if each were as simple as going grocery shopping. Is it as effortless as he makes it look?

“It’s never an easy play, I just get good timing on it and the outfield here is pretty short in center field," Laureano said. "I always feel good playing here.”

Laureano hadn't watched the game film yet, so he wasn't aware how impressively easy his catch looked.

Pitcher Chris Bassitt was. He pumped his fist in gratitude toward Laureano after each of the outfielder's highlight-reel plays.

“He’s a Gold Glove center fielder,” Bassitt said. “No doubt, but I mean, he won us the game defensively. I mean, I know we won it by a couple more runs, but he definitely saved us.”

Bassitt said balls can really fly in Angel Stadium, and playing during the day forces outfielders to work even harder. But that was no worry for Laureano. He thrives there.

A’s manager Bob Melvin gets to see it all unfold from the dugout. 

“I enjoy watching him play, he’s energetic, he’s exciting, he’s a thrill a minute -- and we’ve seen those plays in the outfield,” Melvin said after the win. “This wall can be fairly easy, not that it’s an easy play, but he times it very well. He knows once he hits the warning track how many steps to the wall and he’s really confident doing it.”

Angels' manager Joe Maddon was pretty upset Laureano didn't start serving his suspension Wednesday.

A total game-changer. 

[RELATEDStewart believes 'justice was done' in Laureano, Cintrón bans]

Whenever Laureano starts serving his suspension, the A's will miss him. Oakland can have a glimmer hope of knowing that Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Joe Kelly's eight-game suspension was reduced to five when he appealed. Kelly threw at Astros players and mocked them as he walked off the mound.

“Since you’re telling me that, I will take that bait,” Melvin said after the game. ”Yeah, I would like it to be reduced, so we’ll see where it goes. I’m not in charge of that.”

Watch Ramón Laureano casually rob home run from Angels' Brian Goodwin

Watch Ramón Laureano casually rob home run from Angels' Brian Goodwin

A’s pitchers Yusmeiro Petit and Chris Bassitt are going to buy Ramón Laureano a nice steak dinner after the performance(s) he put on Wednesday.

The A’s centerfielder made a few strong plays against the Angels, but one in particular was peak Laureano. The fact that he robbed a home run of Los Angeles outfielder Brian Goodwin was great, but watch how casual he made the catch look:

I’m literally laughing out loud. How does he make it look so easy? All in a day’s work for Laureano.

This saved the Angels from tying it up in the bottom of the seventh, but that’s typical of the A's outfielder.

[RELATEDCintrón apologizes, denies insulting Laureano's mother]

Laureano was given a six-game suspension after his role in the A’s-Astros bench-clearing brawl on Sunday, but has elected to appeal it. That means, when he does serve the ban, the A’s will be without him for the time being, but they have a phenomenal back-up plan in Chad Pinder.

Pinder’s middle name could be “diverse,” if it wasn’t Hudson. The guy can do it all, and he can do it well. Just as he did on Tuesday night against the Angels in the 6-0 loss. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]