Jesús Luzardo was as surprised as anyone to test positive for the coronavirus upon reporting to A’s training camp.
The 22-year old didn’t feel sick in the slightest. He didn’t come in contact with anyone known to have COVID-19. His friends and family haven’t tested positive for the virus responsible for a worldwide pandemic.
Luzardo was careful about social distancing and recommendations to avoid getting infected.
The positive result came about from intake testing nonetheless, meaning Luzardo had to isolate himself for a period of time and test negative twice at least 24 hours apart.
That finally happened this week. Luzardo was formally cleared roughly two weeks after the positive test and joined the A's for the first time Friday afternoon.
“It was amazing,” Luzardo said in a video conference with A’s reporters. “It was the best day of 2020 for me, by far. I was going crazy locked up in a room. Being able to get back out here at the Coliseum and be around the guys was a lot of fun.”
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Luzardo was able to throw some long toss and roughly 30 pitches in a bullpen session. He’s expected to throw to hitters on Monday.
It was a huge day for Luzardo, who spent roughly two weeks by himself without any symptoms or complications of COVID-19. He was finally able to see teammates in person and start training again after diligently working to sustain great shape during baseball’s shutdown period.
“My arm feels just like it did before this happened,” Luzardo said. “I worked hard over the quarantine. Mike Fiers and I were throwing almost every day, working off a mound. I feel like those two weeks didn’t affect me too, too much.”
That’s not by happenstance. Luzardo was able to work during his isolation at a local field. He played long toss with himself. He played catch with a net and at times worked off a mound. Luzardo received some resistance bands to work out in his room and boredom sometimes pushed him to do more.
“I got tired of playing video games and watching Netflix sometimes, and I would find myself doing mobility work for an hour or so, doing stuff I wouldn’t be so diligent on normally,” Luzardo said. “Overall, that ended up helping me.”
A’s manager Bob Melvin said it would be difficult for Luzardo to start the season in the starting rotation. He could resume a starter’s role before long if it’s necessary and will help the team win. Luzardo had great success coming out of the bullpen late last year.
“It’s huge for me, the experience I gained last year coming out of the bullpen,” Luzardo said. “I threw one inning. I threw three. I did a little bit of everything and that could help to start the year if I’m not in the rotation. I don’t know what the plan is yet. Whatever comes my way, I’ll be ready for it.”
Luzardo was more than ready to rejoin his teammates. He corresponded with fellow pitchers A.J. Puk and Mike Fiers regularly through normal channels, but mostly stayed in touch with teammates through online video games.
Feeling healthy and asymptomatic was an obvious blessing, but he also got a bit antsy in isolation, waiting for clearance to return to an A’s team that likely needs him to realize World Series aspirations.
“It was frustrating [at times] because I felt good,” Luzardo said. “It was tough to see everyone back out there having fun. Baseball is an escape. If I’m throwing in a workout or pitching in a game, it’s a way to escape my problems and stop overthinking things. It was something I needed and I lacked, but I’m glad to be out here now.”