One pitcher’s struggles help create another’s career opportunity
Progress is not always perfectly linear, even for the best young pitchers.
The Oakland A’s optioned Jesús Luzardo to Triple-A Las Vegas on Monday, the team announced. The move comes after the left-hander struggled in a relief role this month.
The 23-year-old phenom opened the season in the starting rotation, but was knocked out for all of May by a freak hand injury. Upon his return he shifted to the bullpen, and that experiment quickly went awry. He was effective in his first two appearances but then allowed runs in his next five outings, including six total homers.
- Luzardo, relief: 9.90 ERA, 10 ip, 11 runs, 10 Ks, 4 BB, 6 HR, 13 hits, .433 xwOBA
During that span, he allowed a dinger approximately once every eight batters, and on Saturday one of those long balls came late in a tie game and helped tag him with a loss. He will stretch back out to a starting role while he’s down in the minors, reports Matt Kawahara of the S.F. Chronicle.
Nobody doubts Luzardo’s amazing stuff, but sometimes young pitchers hit a bump in the road and need to adjust. Eyeball Scout Nico has thoughts on the matter, and the rest of A’s media is still optimistic about the future.
The stuff is excellent. The work ethic is excellent. I think it will work itself out for Luzardo. Getting some time in Triple A to figure things out under less pressure will be a good thing.
— Melissa Lockard (@melissalockard) June 21, 2021
Jesús was fast-tracked into MLB, for obvious & righteous reasons. Sometimes players stick there & never need to revisit the minors. But there should be no shame or lesser thoughts about the many others going “back down” to a place that will eventually elevate them permanently.
— Brodie Brazil (@BrodieNBCS) June 21, 2021
Sending Luzardo down meant space to bring up somebody new, and 27-year-old reliever Domingo Acevedo got to complete his own circuitous path to success. The A’s already had an open 40-man roster spot, so Acevedo was added to that vacancy and called up the majors.
Years ago, Acevedo was one of the top prospects in the New York Yankees’ farm system, with triple-digit velocity and monster strikeout numbers as a starter. But that heat faded over time and with it his prospect stock, and last winter the right-hander entered minor league free agency and signed with the A’s. Given a new change of scenery in Triple-A Las Vegas, he’s dominating out of the bullpen.
- Acevedo, AAA: 2.76 ERA, 16⅓ ip, 27 Ks, 3 BB, 1 HR, 10 hits, 2.19 FIP
As eye-popping as those numbers are, they’re extra impressive in the hitter’s paradise of Las Vegas Ballpark and the Triple-A West division overall. That context is usually particularly harsh on pitchers, but Acevedo has thrived, striking out 42% of the batters he’s faced. His fastball is sitting 94-96 mph, reports Kawahara, not what it once was but still strong.
That performance clearly warrants a chance in the majors, especially at a moment when the A’s bullpen is running thin on reliable depth and looking for new answers. Oakland blew a save on Saturday in a game in which their two closers were both deemed unavailable while resting from heavy use.
For Acevedo, this is technically his second trip to the bigs, though he didn’t get a chance to pitch when the Yankees called him up for one day in July of 2018. When he takes the mound for the A’s, it will mark his MLB debut, amid his ninth professional season.
It doesn’t always go perfectly linear for a young pitcher, but Acevedo finally made it. One struggling phenom returns to the minors for now, while another former phenom bounces back to fulfill his past potential.
Here’s the updated roster and injury report.
Chris Bassitt (R)
60-IL: Mike Fiers (R)
Lou Trivino (R)
IL: J.B. Wendelken (R)
Sean Murphy (R)
1B: Matt Olson (L)
Mark Canha (R)
IL: Stephen Piscotty (R)
- RHP Trevor Rosenthal, 60-day IL, thoracic outlet surgery (mid-August?)
- RHP Mike Fiers, 60-day IL, elbow (July at least; not yet throwing 6/4)
- RHP J.B. Wendelken, 10-day IL, oblique (began AAA rehab 6/17)
- OF Stephen Piscotty, 10-day IL, wrist (getting MRI on 6/21)