Athletics

A's top prospect Jesús Luzardo lives up to hype in sparking MLB debut

A's top prospect Jesús Luzardo lives up to hype in sparking MLB debut

Bob Melvin certainly didn't do Jesús Luzardo any favors.

The A's manager brought in his 21-year-old left-hander for his major league debut and asked him to protect a three-run lead for three full innings, against arguably the best lineup in all of baseball. Luzardo passed the test with flying colors.

Oakland's top prospect retired nine of the 10 batters he faced, allowing just a solo home run, as the A's knocked off the first-place Houston Astros, 5-3.

"I was just anxious to get on the mound," Luzardo told reporters after the game. "A little nervous, but after the first pitch it kind of all went away and I just zoned in."

Luzardo recorded two strikeouts without issuing a walk, setting down the last seven Astros he faced. He seamlessly mixed his 97 mph fastball with a devastating slider and changeup, throwing 22 of his 36 pitches for strikes.

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"It's really impressive," said starting pitcher Brett Anderson, who earned his career-high 12th win of the season. "The command, the poise, for how young he is, the overall stuff is phenomenal. Anytime you can have a lefty throw 98 that throws strikes, it's always a plus."  

Added Melvin: "It's three-plus pitches. He can pitch in any fashion that he wants. He can pitch with his fastball ahead. He can pitch behind in the count. He's always had the ability to do that."

Luzardo may have battled a few nerves early on, but the moment was clearly not too big for him. He attacked All-Star hitters with the confidence of a veteran.

"I grew up watching some of them," Luzardo said of the Astros. "I took the same approach that I would in any other game. I looked at the scouting reports down in the bullpen and kind of prepared myself for what was to come and I'm glad that the results turned out well."

Luzardo had the added pressure of performing in front of approximately 30 friends and family members. But he was thrilled they were able to share this night with him.

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"It was crazy," Luzardo told NBC Sports California. "It was a great time here. I'm glad that I could get a lot of my family and friends out here. I'm happy they could make it out. It was everything I expected it to be."

The question now is how the A's choose to use Luzardo moving forward. While he is destined to be a top-flight starting pitcher throughout his career, Oakland already has six solid starters, along with a shaky bullpen. Wednesday night provided a glimpse of the type of late-inning weapon Luzardo could be down the stretch.

[RELATED: How A's plan to use Frankie Montas on return from suspension]

"We'll still talk about it," Melvin said. "We still want to try to get his pitch count up. I mean, he is a starter by trade. All of our starters are pitching pretty well right now. Maybe the next time out, the same type of fashion. We'll get together at some point in time tomorrow and put a plan together for him."

However the A's choose to use Luzardo, he showed Wednesday night that he is the real deal.

MLB rumors: A's in talks with Stephen Vogt's agent during free agency

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MLB rumors: A's in talks with Stephen Vogt's agent during free agency

Stephen Vogt could be staying in the Bay Area after all. But the catcher might choose a reunion over the option to continue wearing a Giants jersey.

The San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser reported Monday morning that the A's have contacted the agent for the free-agent catcher.

Vogt, 35, proved to be fully healthy after what was once seen as potentially career-threatening shoulder surgery. After missing the entire 2018 season, Vogt was one of the Giants' most reliable bats this past season. 

The veteran catcher signed a minor league contract with the Giants in February, and went on to be a steal for San Francisco. He played in 99 games, hitting .263 with 10 homers and 40 RBI as a spot starter and backup to Buster Posey. Vogt also played seven games in left field last season. 

Vogt became somewhat of a cult hero over his four-and-a-half seasons in Oakland. He broke through as a 30-year-old for the A's in 2015 when he made his first of back-to-back All-Star Game appearances. 

The left-handed hitting catcher had a .255 batting average with 49 homers in 458 games with the A's. Even as someone who turned 35 on Nov. 1, he could be the perfect fit for an Oakland reunion. 

Adding Vogt likely would be the end of the Josh Phegley era. The A's have one of the best young catchers in the game in Sean Murphy, and could pair the 25-year-old right-handed hitter with Vogt, a veteran lefty. 

[RELATED: Vogt's championship desires might hinder Giants return in 2020]

Vogt could start games here and there behind the dish, as well as at DH, play left field and even first base, while being an incredibly serviceable bat off the bench. He hit .325 with two homers in 43 games off the bench for the Giants last season.

At this stage of his career, Vogt has one thing on his mind: A World Series ring. The A's could fit his desires while keeping him in the Bay Area on the team that truly gave him his first chance.

MLB free agency: Why reliever Daniel Hudson, A's might be good fit

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MLB free agency: Why reliever Daniel Hudson, A's might be good fit

It's free agency time, baseball fans -- you know what that means. Well, if history has a way of repeating itself, it means some lulls in the winter months.

For now, we get to speculate and dissect rumors as they come. For the A's, that means concentrating on pitching acquisitions. 

Every team needs pitching whether they're starving for it or not. Oakland is no different, but they have a tendency to concentrate on bullpen arms and are willing to pay up as MLB.com's Mark Feinsand points out. 

Daniel Hudson is one of Feinsand's pitching free-agent targets for the A's and for good reason.

The 10-year veteran was a big part of the World Series champion Washington Nationals' success as he recorded the final out of the Fall Classic. His 2019 campaign had him boasting a 1.44 ERA in 24 games and 23 strikeouts in 25 innings. If you're into pitching wins (some of you are, it's OK to admit it) he was undefeated last season with a 3-0 record.

[RELATEDJesús Luzardo intriguing candidate for 2020 Rookie of the Year]

Hudson never wanted the closing spot, he believed it was too much pressure, because of his ability to throw too many strikes and allowing too much contact. Hudson more than made up for those doubts in himself, but knowing he could potentially be a set-up man and assist in the closing department if needed could benefit the A's.

Liam Hendriks did a fabulous job last season transitioning to the closer role. Adding Hudson to that could be fun to watch.