Athletics

Jesus Luzardo's starting debut beginning of something special for A's

Athletics

Jesus Luzardo's first career MLB start ended in grand fashion -- literally. After tossing five scoreless innings in an eventual 5-1 walk-off win over the Texas Rangers, A's manager Bob Melvin was effusive in his praise of the rookie left-hander.

"He was terrific," Melvin said. "Comes as advertised. Three plus-plus pitches. Great velocity, great movement. Terrific athlete as you saw the play he makes on the mound. So, really good start for him for his first big league start."

Luzardo used that arsenal of pitches to keep the Rangers hitters off balance, allowing just two hits while striking out five. He had to find his own balance at one point in the second inning after Scott Heineman hit a high chopper that bounced right off of home plate.

He tracked the ball over his shoulder, gloved it in no-man's land behind the mound and fired an off-balanced strike to Matt Olson to end the inning. It was the only play to be made, and Luzardo made it look fairly easy.

It was anything but.

"It was extremely difficult," Luzardo said after the win. "I don't know how I did it."

In Luzardo's most recent relief appearance last Wednesday, he made an errant throw to first after knocking down a comebacker, allowing two runs to score in an eventual 5-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies. He was relieved to put that in the past with his standout defensive play Tuesday.

 

"I'm glad I was able to do that and finally kind of get last outing's mistake and be able to focus on this one and get that (pitchers' fielding practice) under my belt," Luzardo continued.

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He showed tremendous poise on the play, a theme throughout his starting debut. When asked if he had to say anything to Luzardo leading up to the game to calm his nerves, Melvin explained that wasn't necessary.

"Ha, no," Melvin said with a chuckle. "I don't have much to say to him. He has got a smile on his face, you'd never know it was the day he was pitching. It's his first big league start. Certainly, if there were nerves, he didn't show it. A lot of times the nerves will show up in the first inning and it was anything but. 

"Just throwing bullets. Good changeup, good breaking ball right away. He's special in the fact that he has a lot of confidence at a young age, and if I had that kind of stuff I probably would too."

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Though all seemed quiet on the surface, Luzardo admitted he was somewhat nervous earlier in the day. But once he got into his element, that all disappeared.

"Definitely coming into the game, like leading up to it this morning, I was definitely nervous," Luzardo said. "Just typical nerves. I feel like I get nervous or butterflies before every time I pitch. But once I started getting my routine and once I was out there on the field, even warming up in the bullpen, all that stuff was gone for me."

Luzardo's first career start could not have gone much better. It was worth the wait and looked like the beginning of something special.