Jesus Luzardo's last outing in the California League was his final one. He's jumping back to the Pacific Coast League.
Oakland's top prospect allowed an earned run on four hits while striking out nine batters over four innings of relief in Class A Advanced Stockton's 10-2 romp over Modesto at John Thurman Field. Luzardo made just his second appearance of the season after being sidelined with a left shoulder strain in the last week of Spring Training. The The 21-year-old is joining Triple-A Las Vegas and could pitch as soon as Saturday.
"My two [games] in Stockton were good to get my feet wet again, to get back into game action and competitive baseball," Luzardo said. "Moving forward, I just want to keep feeling good and keep the success."
Video: Stockton's Luzardo strikes out the side
MLB.com's No. 12 overall prospect was poised to make the A's Opening Day roster after a stellar spring campaign. Ultimately, Luzardo didn't make his season debut until June 11.
The 6-foot, 209-pound hurler more than made up for the lost time. After racking up three scoreless innings in his debut outing, Luzardo notched the most strikeouts he's recorded in a game since July 10, 2018 on Sunday.
He started off by striking out Nick Thurman in the third inning on five pitches. He surrendered a single to Johnny Adams, but fanned Connor Kopach and Jake Scheiner to retire the side. The southpaw yeilded two more singles in the fourth, but froze Ariel Sandoval on three pitches to escape the jam.
Gameday box score
After recording his first two outs of the fifth on four pitches, Luzardo gave up a first-pitch solo homer to Kopach. He induced a groundout from Scheiner to end the frame and struck out the side in the sixth to wrap up his outing. Luzardo pumped his fist into his glove several times on his walk back to the dugout.
"I was a little frustrated about the home run I gave up, but I was also pumped up that [the day] went well," he said. "Everything was cruising.
"I feel really good, body-wise and mentally. It's big to get the first two [games] out of the way. The second one was definitely a confidence booster."
The game's No. 2 left-handed prospect behind San Diego's MacKenzie Gore did not walk a batter in his second consecutive outing and threw 52 pitches, 38 for strikes, with his 65-grade fastball topping out at 99 mph. Luzardo picked up his first win of the year while lowering his ERA to 1.29.
After beginning 2018 in the Cal League, he finished the season in Triple-A. Luzardo was acquired in a 2017 trade with the Nationals for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson, even after undergoing Tommy John surgery in his senior year of high school. He excelled through the A's farm system and was considered as a top candidate to fill a rotation slot come Opening Day. But lingering shoulder pain became too strong to ignore, leaving the southpaw sidelined for over two months.
"In the beginning, it was definitely a little frustrating, just knowing the possibilities, knowing what I knew I could do if I had the chance," Luzardo admitted. "It took about a week to get over that. After that, I was just like, 'I want to get better and I want to move on.' ... Now, I feel brand new."
2019 MiLB include
He relieved A.J. Puk on Sunday after the A's second-ranked prospect recorded two innings of one-run ball. The No. 34 overall prospect made one mistake, a solo shot by Mariners No. 13 prospect Cal Raleigh with two outs in the first. The 24-year-old walked one and whiffed three, also in his second start of the year.
Puk had not pitched since 2017 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The A's first-round pick in 2016 sports a career 3.83 ERA over three levels and led the Minors in his full season with a 13.2 strikeouts-per-nine-inning rate. Oakland lost the fourth-ranked lefty overall to injury in 2018 around the same time Luzardo went out this year.
Fifth-ranked Oakland prospect Austin Beck delivered a two-run double and No. 10 Jeremy Eierman added two hits for the Ports. Trace Loehr went 3-for-5 with an RBI while Jonah Bride and Robert Mullen plated two runs piece.