The Marlins have one of baseball’s youngest and most exciting rotations and former top prospect Jesus Luzardo is eager to be a main part of it.
It was a tough year to be a Marlins fan in 2021. Miami posted a 67-95 record, and they were one of the worst road teams in all of baseball (25-56). It’s hard to put wins together with a 29th ranked team OPS of .671.
Despite the disappointment in the batters box, the Marlins did have one bright spot: their starting pitching. Trevor Rogers, a first-time All-Star, and Sandy Alcantara, who made 33 starts (tied for 1st in MLB), were the headliners, but the Marlins rotation is deep with young talent.
Jesús Luzardo, the Miami’s 24-year-old left-hander, joined Pete and Aram on an episode of the Just Baseball Show to talk about his career, offseason work, and expectations for Miami’s up and coming starting rotation.
Luzardo was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the third round of the MLB Draft in 2016. After successful rehabilitation from a Tommy John surgery, he was traded to the Oakland Athletics in July of 2017. Getting shipped out is a tough experience for any player, especially a young guy who is trying to find a role in the majors.
“Moving around, getting traded is never easy,” Luzardo said. “COVID probably didn’t make it easier on a lot of the people that got traded this year…the first couple weeks is kind of off, it’s kind of hard to find that same routine again.”
Luzardo spent the next couple years battling in the minor leagues before making his Major League debut on September 11, 2019. He ended up making six appearances that season.
A COVID-19 diagnosis forced Luzardo to the bullpen to start the 2020 season, but it wasn’t long before he hit the bump as a starter. He ended up making nine starts that season, finishing with a 4.12 in 12 games (9 starts).Fast forward to the 2021 season, and things didn’t go quite as planned.
Luzardo struggled early on in the season and eventually made his way on the injured list with a fractured pinky in his throwing hand. He was thrown into the bullpen upon his return, and soon optioned to Triple-A in June. His tenure in Oakland soon came to an end.
He was traded to the Miami Marlins on July 28, 2021 as part of the deal that sent Starling Marte to the Athletics. Luzardo understood the difficulties that come with getting traded, but things were different this time.
“It was definitely a blessing for me just being able to come back home,” said Luzardo. “It helped me out being back home and being around people I love.”
The south Florida native was back home playing for the team he grew up watching. Luzardo wasn’t just surrounded by family and friends, but he was now part of a young pitching staff with a ton of upside. It wasn’t long before Jesús began to fit right in with the Marlins staff.
“These are guys that it’s so easy to just talk to,” said Luzardo. “[Sitting] next to them on the bench and [having conversations] with them while we’re watching, that’s what I like to do. Bounce ideas, pick their brains…we all want to get better. I think we feed off each other.”
Marlins fans certainly have a lot to look forward to in 2022 (assuming this lockout thing is over with). Trevor Rogers, Sandy Alcantara, and Pablo Lopez are all coming off fantastic seasons, and they have a solid bullpen weapon in Anthony Bender. Luzardo will have some competition for the final spots in the starting rotation, but that’s something that he embraces.
“I think it’s honestly healthy,” said Luzardo. “I think we all like that competitive edge…we are all friends and kind of all competing for the same stuff, but we push each other to be better.”
Luzardo has been known for his killer offspeed. Some people like to classify it as a slider, and some like to call it a curve. Whatever it is, he throws it at 86 MPH and it has crazy movement when it’s on.
“It’s definitely changed a lot over the last two years,” said Luzardo. “I consider it a slider, it’s always been kind of a slider for me but it turns into a slurve at times. It’s matured a lot, it’s taken time to develop.”
Every player has something that they can improve on each year, and Jesús understands what he needs to focus on. He threw his fastball 34.4% of the time last season, which was up 9% from the previous year.
Luzardo understands that he needs to improve his command on his heater, but he is taking a more mature approach to his offseason work.
“[I’m] doing a lot of studying outside of pitching mechanics and pitching,” said Luzardo. “In terms of how to read hitters, where to locate my stuff and how my stuff plays best for me. All these things that kind of go into pitching that most people don’t think about.”