Jesus Luzardo Earns A’s Both On And Off Field

The Athletics pursued lefthander Jesus Luzardo because of his ability to throw a baseball. What they acquired was much more than expected.

“He’s extremely special, on the inside and out,” pitching coordinator Gil Patterson said.

As Luzardo prepared to leave for spring training, a gunman shot up his old high school, killing 17 of his former schoolmates and teachers in Parkland, Fla.

“His mentor (Chris Hixon) was killed—the athletic director who had helped him his whole life,” Patterson said. “He started a foundation to help (Hixon’s) son.”

Hixon was slain while protecting students at Douglas High, where Luzardo spoke at campus events and talked to students. He graduated from the school in 2016, the year the Nationals made him a third-round pick.

“As great as that is, he’s just as good on the field,” Patterson said. 

The A’s acquired Luzardo from the Nationals last July as he was near full recovery from the Tommy John surgery that cost him 2016 and half of 2017. Oakland also picked up third baseman Sheldon Neuse and righthander Blake Treinen in the exchange that sent big league relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to Washington.

Now in his initial spring with Oakland, Luzardo has made a big impression. 

The 20-year-old currently throws three pitches, though Patterson hints something else may be added soon. His four-seam fastball reaches as high as 96 mph and sits around 93. His changeup is already a plus pitch, and his curveball is showing great improvement.

Patterson raves about Luzardo’s changeup. “He has great hand speed and some bottom, but with his delivery, it has a quick tempo to it,” he said.

As for Luzardo’s curve, Patterson said “he can change shapes with it. For a 20-year-old to change shapes is pretty special. His fastball just jumps, with late life.”

Luzardo will move to low Class A Beloit this season after finishing 2017 with 18 innings at short-season Vermont. Patterson said the pitches are there, but “he just needs to pitch and get experience. He has wonderful poise for a young player.”

>> Righthander James Kaprielian continues to recover from Tommy John surgery. Patterson said the A’s hope he will be ready to appear in games by the end of April, but the emphasis is on recovery rather than a speedy return.

>> Cuban righthander Norge Ruiz also made a big impression at spring training. He throws 91-95 mph with his two-seamer and is effective with his splitter and changeup. His breaking ball needs work, Patterson said. The A’s will see this year if he fits best as a starter or reliever.

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