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Jesús Luzardo eyeing 2022 breakout with improved fastball command

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In a new interview, the Marlins left-hander reflected on his pro career thus far and looked forward to his age-24 campaign.

Jesus Luzardo #44 of the Miami Marlins delivers a pitch against the Cincinnati Reds at loanDepot park Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

“Routine is the most important part of the big league lifestyle,” Jesús Luzardo said on Thursday’s episode of the Just Baseball Show with Aram Leighton and Peter Appel. Now, the Marlins lefty is in the midst of the first MLB work stoppage of his lifetime, but that hasn’t prevented him from “going about my offseason as a regular offseason.”

Luzardo struggled at the big league level in 2021, both before (6.87 ERA/6.09 FIP in 38.0 IP) and after (6.44 ERA/5.07 FIP in 57.1 IP) the trade that sent him to the Marlins in exchange for Starling Marte. He carried some momentum into the offseason, though, by registering a career-high 11 strikeouts against the Phillies in Miami’s penultimate game on October 2.

When asked about that outstanding performance, he was quick to credit batterymate Alex Jackson:

“Me and A-Jaxx were on the same page the whole time. I don’t even think I shook once—it was just whatever sign he was giving me. I had a lot of confidence in him. We were on the same page. He was taking a great sequence, which is something I was working on towards the end of the year. We were as a whole.”

On his mission to lock up a 2022 Marlins rotation spot—and hold it throughout the season—Luzardo says his focus is on “mastering” the pitch arsenal he already has. In opposition to Statcast’s “curveball” classification, he refers to his signature breaking ball as a slider. He mentions that he “got a feel for it” as the season was winding down after previously dealing with some inconsistency. Nearly half of the K’s during Luzardo’s MLB career (85 of 173) have come via the slider.

Luzardo says fastball command will also be key. Despite plus velocity, his heaters got shelled by big leaguers in 2021. His .437 weighted on-base average allowed on four-seamers and sinkers combined was fifth-worst among all players with at least 1,000 total pitches thrown, according to Baseball Savant. “Doing a lot of studying outside of pitching mechanics and pitching,” he says, “how to read hitters, where to locate my stuff and how my stuff plays best” should translate to better results.

Luzardo’s curveball and sinker usage and location heat map from the 2021 season
Luzardo’s four-seam fastball and slider and location heat map from the 2021 season Baseball Savant

Beyond just Jackson, Luzardo speaks highly about several other of his fellow Fish. He describes Sandy Alcantara, Pablo López and Trevor Rogers as being “really welcoming” to him last summer. He is excited to link up with pre-lockout trade acquisition Jacob Stallings. “I’ve heard only great things about him,” Luzardo says, “not only as a catcher but as a teammate and a player.”

“I think that the clubhouse is the big part of a winning team,” Luzardo added, “and this clubhouse—ever since I came over—was amazing.”