Rookie pitcher Jesus Luzardo was the only Oakland A’s player held out of the beginning of preseason Summer Camp due to a positive coronavirus test during MLB’s intake screening process. Fortunately, Luzardo was cleared to rejoin the team on Friday, reports insider Martin Gallegos and the other beat writers.
In order to return from isolation away from the club, Luzardo had to test negative twice at least 24 hours apart. He also had to be free of symptoms for at least 72 hours, but that wasn’t a problem because he never displayed any in the first place, reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle. He’s thrilled to return after “going crazy isolated in a room for two weeks,” per Slusser.
Beyond the primary great news that Luzardo is healthy after his brush with the virus, this is also a crucial development for the A’s on the field. The 22-year-old is one of the top prospects in the sport, and he was expected to be part of the rotation this season and hopefully begin his climb toward ace status. They have enough depth to cover if he’d been out longer, but getting him back adds another potential star to the mix.
Missing most of training camp will be a slight bump in the road, but it doesn’t sound like any kind of dealbreaker for that plan. Slusser reports that Luzardo should still make the Opening Day roster. He probably won’t start right away, with Chris Bassitt taking his place in the rotation if needed, but Luzardo will get stretched out and could take over once he’s ready for at least three innings at a time.
Meanwhile, the left-hander started throwing at the Coliseum on Friday and will face hitters on Monday, per Gallegos. He could even pitch in the exhibition game against the Giants on Monday, says Matt Kawahara of the S.F. Chronicle in his full writeup.
If Luzardo has to begin the season in the bullpen, then his 2019 experience there could come in handy, notes Slusser. When he debuted in the majors last year, he did so as a reliever, coming out of the pen six times (and once more in the Wild Card Game) and even earning two saves amid great overall numbers. However, the A’s are also considering the use of piggyback starters in their rotation and multi-inning relievers in their pen, which could expedite Luzardo’s return to the 1st inning even if he’s only ready to go a short stint, suggests Gallegos in his full writeup.
He certainly has one fan in catcher Jonah Heim, who called Luzardo’s stuff “unmatched,” via Slusser.
In terms of coronavirus, Luzardo isn’t the only MLB player rejoining his team, as other stars around the league including Joey Gallo, Miguel Sano, Yoan Moncada, and D.J. LeMahieu also recently received clearance to get back in action.
Even better, further spread has been kept in check so far. After 66 positive tests in 3,748 intake screening samples (1.2%), there have only been another 23 in 17,949 subsequent samples (0.1%) taken as part of two-plus weeks of further monitoring, and over the past week it’s been six out of 10,548 (0.05%) including a five-day span with no positives. Whereas 27 teams were affected during intake, only 13 have been during the monitoring process, and clearly fewer in the most recent days.
That’s an encouraging trend as the league prepares for Opening Day of its precarious 2020 season, coming July 23. The A’s open the next day, July 24 (Fri.), at home against the Angels and televised on ESPN, and it sounds like Luzardo will be in the building.