Oakland A’s fans have been excited about Jesús Luzardo for a long time, for a hundred different reasons.
The lefty’s stuff is incredible, with velocity and movement and secondary offerings to keep batters guessing. His control and command are impeccable. He’s both mature beyond his 23 years, and also having as much fun as a kid on the field, making him easy to like and root for. He had everything you could want in a pitching prospect, and he began to show it as a rookie last year, even earning a Game 1 playoff start in October.
But there’s still been one thing missing from our Luzardo experience so far. There were always rumors of its existence, but from a fan perspective it remained the stuff of legends. Somewhere, in a hidden baseball laboratory, he was working on a pitch called the Turkey Sub.
Inspired by fellow pitching prospect Brian Howard, the Turkey Sub is spiritually in the category of an eephus, though really it’s more of just a 65 mph curveball. On the heels of Luzardo’s 97 mph heater, it may as well be going 50 and arcing like a slow-pitch softball. Or, if the fastball comes afterward, it’ll look 120 and the hitter will be toast.
The pitch is so named because it’s “nothing to write home about, just gets the job done,” says Luzardo, with a wry smile on his face.
Jesús Luzardo on the origin of the “turkey sub” — a Brian Howard term. pic.twitter.com/3sVcMVZ2Ub— Shayna Rubin (@ShaynaRubin) March 11, 2021
And so for years we’ve waited, hoping that one day we’d finally catch a glimpse of the elusive pitch in the wild, in an actual game. That day came on Thursday, in Luzardo’s 2021 Cactus League debut, in the midst of four hitless innings.
Facing the Texas Rangers, in the 3rd inning against Leody Taveras, the southpaw opened the deli and served up a sandwich. We no longer have to imagine it, there is now video evidence of the Turkey Sub. Bon appetit.
Jesus Luzardo's 65mph "Turkey Sub" Curveball. ✝️— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 13, 2021
[The next pitch was 97mph ] @Baby_Jesus9 pic.twitter.com/M2Hsr7Hn0G
That’s 32 miles of separation from one pitch to the next. Even half that velocity difference would be considered excellent, and last year his offspeed (8 mph change) and breaking ball (11 mph) averaged even closer than that to his fastball.
If you snap a few still-frames and overlay them, you really get an idea of the movement the sub gets on its way to the plate.
This wasn’t just a matter of goofing off in spring training, either. Luzardo said he “didn’t have the confidence to throw it last year but he’s been working on it and said he will throw it a lot more this year,” per insider Martin Gallegos. This is going to be an actual part of his repertoire this summer, on the menu with all the other tasty offerings that already had him looking like a budding ace.
Luzardo was already a national Top Ten prospect, then got Rookie of the Year votes, and pitched in two different postseasons. Now the flamethrower is armed with a Turkey Sub, and he knows how to use it.