Athletics

Why A's so excited to add Jesús Luzardo, A.J. Puk to 2020 rotation

/ by Ben Ross
Presented By A'sPlayoffs2019
Athletics

OAKLAND -- Somewhat lost in the cloud of disappointment from the A's AL Wild Card Game defeat to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday was the terrific performance by 22-year-old Jesús Luzardo.

The hard-throwing southpaw pitched three scoreless innings of relief, allowing just one hit with four strikeouts. Luzardo's fastball touched 100 mph, while his slider made Rays hitters look like Little Leaguers.

The A's No. 1 prospect is expected to be the ace of the starting rotation next season, followed closely by fellow left-hander and No. 2 prospect A.J. Puk.

"They're going to be stars," A's manager Bob Melvin said Thursday. "Both of these guys are going to be fantastic players for us, and part of the feeling that we have going into next year that we're going to be better (is) because of guys like that."

Luzardo and Puk spent the majority of this season in the minor leagues as they recovered from injuries -- Luzardo from a strained rotator cuff and Puk from Tommy John surgery. Each pitcher eventually joined the A's bullpen late, and they certainly lived up to the hype.

Luzardo pitched 12 innings in September, allowing just two runs on five hits, with 16 strikeouts and three walks. Puk, 24, wasn't quite as dominant, but still posted a solid 3.18 ERA and 13 punchouts in 11 1/3 innings.

"Jesus and A.J. have a lot to offer going forward," A's general manager David Forst said. "Both worked through their own injuries, but I think we saw what Jesús is capable of last night, and A.J. is going to be a good starter for us for awhile."

 

Luzardo allowed an earned run in each of his first two major league appearances, but quickly became a shutdown pitcher for the A's. In each of his last five appearances, including his postseason debut Wednesday, the rookie didn't allow a run.

"In Jesús' case, he was factoring late in games," Melvin recalled. "After about one appearance maybe, when he came in the game, it was all about, 'Alright, how are we going to score some runs? He's got this taken care of.' For a young guy to be that impactful late in games -- seven inning, eighth inning, ninth inning -- that early in your career at that young of an age, you don't see that very often."

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Luzardo and Puk should anchor a dominant rotation, which is also expected to include Frankie Montas, Sean Manaea, and Mike Fiers. If Luzardo and Puk continue to develop, that arguably could be the best starting five across MLB in 2020.

"I think we have a great future ahead of us and a lot of young guys who can help us out and contribute," Luzardo said. "Hopefully I continue to do what I did, and I'll be working for that. That's my goal."