Jesus Luzardo’s first inning as a starting pitcher at his hometown ballpark for his hometown team went about as well as he could have anticipated. He admitted it was probably the most jitters he had stepping onto a mound — “more than my debut, more than playoff games,” he said — but the 23-year-old lefty with “954” stitched in gold on his black glove didn’t show it at first. He retired the first three New York Mets batters he faced on 17 pitches.
His second inning was rough, bloating his pitch count and cutting into the Miami Marlins’ early lead as command eluded him.
But Luzardo rebounded, and the Parkland Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School alumnus had enough support from his offense to leave loanDepot park with a 6-3 win on Monday to begin his Marlins career.
Luzardo’s final line in his Marlins debut: Three earned runs allowed on four hits and three walks over five innings pitched. Luzardo threw 84 pitches, 47 of which went for strikes.
“I take a lot of pride in where I grew up — Parkland, Florida. Broward County,” said Luzardo, who estimated he had about 100 friends and family members at the ballpark. “People ask me where I’m from and I say Broward County all the time. ... It means a lot.”
‘A very long, strong career ahead of him’
The Marlins (45-61) understand Luzardo is not a finished product. Luzardo understands that, too.
He had thrown just 109 innings at the MLB level at the time Miami acquired him from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for outfielder Starling Marte.
The organization also understands the short- and long-term benefits Luzardo can bring to the club if he reaches his potential.
In the immediate, he provides a capable starting pitcher to round out a rotation that has been plagued by injuries all season. For the long haul, he could become a middle-of-the-rotation starter on a team that already features an ace in Sandy Alcantara and a rising rookie in Trevor Rogers as well as a deep minor-league system with potential high-end starters. Luzardo is under team control until 2026.
“We think Jesus has got a very long, strong career ahead of him and we’re just happy to have him,” Marlins general manager Kim Ng said Wednesday after the trade was completed. “We’ve obviously had our battle with injuries and there’s the old adage that you can never have enough pitching. I think for me personally, it was hard [to trade Marte], but I think in the end, knowing the return that we got for a guy like Starling, knowing that he was on an expiring contract, I personally as well as I think others in the organization, we’re really excited about the caliber of the player that we got in return.”
They got a glimpse Monday of where Luzardo stands.
He mixed in all of his pitches, throwing 39 sinkers, 24 changeups, 17 curveballs and four four-seam fastballs.
His fastball topped out at 97.9 mph and his offspeed pitches averaged in the mid-80s.
Mets batters whiffed on 17 of their 40 swings — a 43-percent rate that’s well above Luzardo’s career average of 29.9 percent.
Luzardo retired the side in the first inning, getting Kevin Pillar and Jeff McNeil to ground out while striking out Pete Alonso swinging on an 86.7 mph changeup on the outside corner of the strike zone.
He fell into trouble in the second inning, walking Javier Baez on five pitches, giving up a hard-hit single to J.D. Davis and then throwing a wild pitch to give the Mets their first run of the game. Luzardo got two quick outs after that before Brandon Drury drove in another run with an RBI double. Luzardo needed 29 pitches in total to get the three outs in the inning.
He gave up a leadoff home run to Alonso in the third but held the Mets (55-50) scoreless after that.
“You know how good the stuff is and you know how well a guy can pitch. You’ve heard all those things. You’ve seen it,” Marlins acting manager James Rowson said. “The biggest thing to be is when you get into trouble is the bounce back, the guy who can show ‘Hey, I can bounce back. I can come back and finish strong.’ I thought he did a great job of showing that.”
Bonding with a new catcher
And the start came with Luzardo throwing to a catcher in Alex Jackson who he had met just one day earlier. Such a quick turnaround can usually be tough for a pitcher and catcher to formulate a game plan, but the duo figured it out.
“I think we had a really good chemistry out there,” Luzardo said. “I love the way he calls the game. I love the way he gives me confidence, the way he’s receiving and catching back there.”
What stood out the most about Luzardo to Jackson?
“His confidence and his composure on the mound,” Jackson said. “His stuff is absolutely electric as everyone knows, but he was able to control his emotions. He was able to put his game face on and even when things did get a little bit erratic, he came to me in the dugout and said ‘Hey, I’m good to go. Let’s get back after it.’ That shows you how he is as a pitcher, how he is as a person.”
Getting help to seal the win
The offense backed him up as well. Outfielder Lewis Brinson, a fellow Broward County native, hit a first-inning grand slam and recorded a career-high five RBI overall on Monday. Isan Diaz also hit an RBI double in the third that scored Brinson.
“Obviously being Broward boys, we know each other,” said Brinson, who graduated from Coral Springs High when Luzardo was in eighth grade. “He went to my rival high school, so I’ll let that slide. I wanted to get this one for him. I wanted him to have a good outing and us to get the W for him. It’s big being back home.”
David Hess, Anthony Bender, Anthony Bass and Dylan Floro threw four shutout innings to seal the win.
Floro earned the save by recording the final four outs, including getting out of a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the eighth by getting Drury to ground into a fielder’s choice.
Injury updates and roster moves
▪ The Marlins optioned outfielder Brian Miller to Triple A Jacksonville make room for Luzardo on the active roster. Miller played one game during the three days he was with the big-league club, going 1 for 3 at the plate.
▪ Right-handed pitcher Elieser Hernandez (right quad strain) will make his second rehab start on Saturday with Triple A Jacksonville. Hernandez threw 46 pitches over 2 2/3 innings with Double A Pensacola on Saturday.
▪ Outfielder Jesus Sanchez remains in return-to-play protocols.
▪ Right-handed pitcher Pablo Lopez (right rotator cuff strain) is throwing on flat ground at 90 feet. Ng said on Saturday the club hopes Lopez will return to the roster around the end of the month.
▪ Superutility player Jon Berti (concussion) is progressing with baseball activities as tolerated.