Coming off a strong 2018 season, Jesus Luzardo entered 2019 with a shot at making the A's Opening Day rotation.
The A's top pitching prospect posted impressive numbers during spring training and it appeared like he might break camp with the big league club. But a left rotator cuff strain sidelined the 21-year-old for the first two months of the 2019 season.
Luzardo's return from the rotator cuff injury lasted just five outings, though. While rehabbing with Triple-A Las Vegas, Luzardo suffered a Grade 2 lat strain on July 2. That injury sidelined him for another four weeks.
Luzardo returned to the mound on Aug. 5 in the Arizona League and completed three perfect innings for High-A Stockton on Saturday.
In a recent interview with The Athletic's Melissa Lockard, Luzardo opened up about the severity of the lat strain.
“It was something in my lower- to mid-back,” Luzardo told Lockard. “It was completely different. Honestly, I didn’t think it was a big deal until the next day that we got the MRI results back. I wasn’t even too worried about it that night, but it ended up being something worse than what I thought.”
Despite the second injury only keeping Luzardo out for one month, he revealed to Lockard that it was tough to deal with mentally.
“I was so close when I got to Vegas again and got hurt again,” Luzardo said. “It took about four to five days just to get out of that (mental) slump, but after that it was fine. I just had to get going again and wanted to get back at it and not lose the whole year.”
So far this season, Luzardo has pitched 24 1/3 innings across three levels. He's allowed just six earned runs and struck out 37 batters.
If Luzardo can avoid another injury, he should be an option for the A's in September, and maybe even October, if they reach the postseason.
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If they A's want to limit the number of innings he pitches this season, they can use him out of bullpen and pitch him an inning at a time. The left-handed pitcher could be dominant in that role.
The catch there is that Luzardo has to stay healthy.