First and foremost, a heartfelt thanks goes out to AN veteran Margie Kahn for her magical transcribing skills that made it possible for me to publish these interviews so soon after they were conducted.
You would think that if a blogger had one shot each year to interview players, he would steal all the time he could get. So why is this interview on the shorter side? While waiting for Jesus Luzardo, I found myself standing alongside a gentleman, also with a press credential, holding a camera and waiting...waiting, as I learned, for Luzardo...who was ready to sit down with me just as soon as he did a pre-arranged autograph session for an expectant group of fans...
At 21, not yet on the 40 man roster or with a big league inning to his name, Jesus Luzardo is already one of the most sought after members of the A’s team. I take that to mean it would be the easiest thing in the world for him to politely explain that his schedule didn’t quite allow for him to sit down with a no-name blogger prone to typing random puns from his bedroom.
Instead, Luzardo congenially squeezed me in between signing and posing, and Jesus only knows what else. So I kept this one relatively short, compensating with a rather long chat with Jharel Cotton that will run in a week. With Luzardo, I wanted to hear more about his unusual commitment to pilates and yoga as his fitness regimen, and we went from there. I hope you enjoy...
Nico: So, one thing I’m really curious to learn about is this Pilates regimen that you’ve adopted. Going back, about the only person I can remember talking about yoga or Pilates or anything was Barry Zito, maybe 10, 15 years ago. It really hasn’t yet become a big thing. So I’m interested in how you got dialed in to that concept and aware of the benefits.
Luzardo: I really just was looking at something in this offseason to improve my flexibility and my overall strength, and I had a buddy back home that plays with the Braves, and he kinda gave me that little tip and I went with him and kinda just fell in love, kept on. I feel a lot stronger and more flexible this year so it’s definitely I look forward to incorporating more often.
Nico: So before your friend said hey, you should do Pilates, did you know anything about it?
Luzardo: Yeah. I mean, I did yoga last offseason a couple of times, but then I did it more this offseason, and then when he mentioned Pilates I was all about it. So I hadn’t heard much about it. I heard it was good but I never really went.
Nico: So I’m gonna be transcribing this, but can you explain some of the key exercises you do and what they do for you?
Luzardo: Exercises I couldn’t really tell you, but I can tell you definitely a lot of core strength, a lot of mobility, and a lot of just body control overall, just awareness of your body and how to move. So it’s definitely something I use on the mound.
Nico: Where do you feel that mobility? Hips?
Luzardo: My back, overall, the way I twist and the way I turn, just overall I feel more flexible, more loose.
Nico: Have you done enough of the new meditation routine to have an opinion on how that works for you?
Luzardo: Yeah, I like it. I’ve used it a little bit and I can tell you it relaxes you and soothes you and kinda helps you stay in your zone and work on your mental game. So I think it’s a great tool to have.
Nico: So that’s one of the things that really defines you from a scouting perspective. Scouts will say yeah, the stuff plays, but Jesus Luzardo really just has a feel for pitching. He can read hitters. Do you have any idea where that comes from or how you explain why you might have that and some other guys don’t?
Luzardo: To be honest with you, I don’t really know if I can explain that. It’s just kinda the way I grew up. I was never really a hard thrower so I would always have to learn how to pitch, and now that I throw a little bit harder it just helps add a little bit of both. But I really don’t know how or why, I guess it kinda just happened.
Nico: Who were your influences early in life that shaped you to be who you are?
Luzardo: My dad, obviously, my parents. Pitching-wise, I had a pitching coach in high school, I had a pitching coach since I was like nine years old who to this day I still have conversations with. So guys that really knew about pitching, guys who really knew about baseball, high IQ, so I just kinda molded myself in ways they said, and they helped me out a lot.
Nico: So if you have a conversation with someone who worked with you when you were nine years old, what are those conversations like? What are they about?
Luzardo: I mean, lately it’s more just how you doing, keep up the good work and all that. But back then, it was teach me how to pitch, teach me how to control your emotions, teach me how to read hitters, teach me how to, what pitch you should throw, how to read a swing here and there. So it was a lot of things back in the day that helped me and molded me to what I am today.
Nico: If you’re struggling and your catcher comes out to the mound, what do you need from him? What do they need to say or do?
Luzardo: I don’t really know. I think it’s more of myself. If the catcher comes out, he’s just like hey, “one pitch get two,” “don’t try to work too fast” – but at the same time I like to work fast so it’s kinda a mix. But our catchers do a great job and every one that’s caught me has done a great job and I love it, so there’s nothing really I can complain about.
Nico: So just finishing off, since a lot of fans don’t know you yet that well, can you give a sense of your personality, how people would describe you, how your teachers would describe you?
Luzardo: Off the field I feel like people would describe me as pretty shy, pretty quiet, not really, if I don’t know you too well I’m not gonna talk to you much, but when you get to know me I’m a pretty nice guy. I feel like I get along with everyone and have fun being around my teammates and around people in general. When I’m pitching I’m probably a little different, I’m probably a little more intense and probably more confident in myself than I am. So that’s what I would say.