Jesús Luzardo is ready to return to the A’s rotation. The phenom left-hander took an important, essentially final step towards that end, throwing 67 pitches over 3 2/3 innings in Wednesday’s 5-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies.
Luzardo’s pitch count was as important as any stat, showing that he’s stretched out enough to make a start that could last into the fifth inning if he’s efficient.
“My arm is ready, especially after this outing getting the pitch total even higher than it was before,” Luzardo said. “I think I’m ready in terms of strength and how I feel.”
That start could well come in Seattle on Aug. 3. While manager Bob Melvin wouldn’t say when Luzardo would enter the rotation – he has said Luzardo could enter the rotation soon – the left-hander could pitch the series finale against the Mariners on regular rest and slot perfectly into the rotation.
Daniel Mengden is in line to start that day. He was the last addition to the rotation and would logically be the first one back to the bullpen now that Luzardo has proven ready for a start.
The 22-year old phenom has progressed rapidly, considering he was quarantined two weeks after a positive coronavirus test. He threw a bullpen and live batting practice as training camp came to an end. His season debut came in relief on Saturday, throwing 44 pitches over three innings. He went longer on Wednesday following three days off and should be ready to throw 15 or so more pitches next time out.
His stuff was awesome, as always.
“It was great. He had a couple of really good hitters take a good approach on some at bats against him but, other than that, you see a bunch of bad swings,” Melvin said. “The velocity is there. The breaking ball is there. He’s throwing 2-0 changeups to lefties. His stuff is great, and to have it in this fashion after missing a significant period of time in summer camp is impressive.”
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The A’s rotation was set back this summer with both of their young starters unavailable to start the season. Luzardo was behind after quarantine and A.J. Puk is on the injured list with shoulder inflammation.
Chris Bassitt was excellent on Sunday filling in for Luzardo, and Megnden was OK in Puk’s spot. No A’s starter finished five innings the first time through the rotation, though Frankie Montas broke the streak on Wednesday with his second start.
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Adding Luzardo will be of huge benefit when he arrives, adding another ace-quality hurler that will be tough to beat when pitching to his potential. He has been throwing his fastball around 97 mph, with a sinker just a tick below that. He also has a slider, curve and changeup working for him, all contributing to a pitch mix that’s hard to hit.
He’ll soon add all that to the A’s rotation.
“He’s ready,” Montas said. “He’s a fighter. He goes out there trying to get outs and trying to do his best.”