The 2023 World Baseball Classic brought together 600 players from 20 different countries for two weeks of intense competition. Players from Major League Baseball and other international leagues had the chance to play, some of which are/were already teammates for the club teams prior to the international competition. For some, it was an introduction to guys that had never played together. For others, it was a reunion. And for some, it was one last chance to play side-by-side.
In the Team Venezuela clubhouse, familiar faces Jesús Luzardo and Pablo López once again donned the same jerseys as each other—only this time, it was a blue, yellow, and maroon jersey with a cursive “Venezuela” emblazoned across the chest, rather than the Miami Marlins jerseys they had shared in 2021 and 2022.
The WBC might’ve been the final time that the two good friends will represent the same team. López was traded to the Minnesota Twins along with infield prospect José Salas and outfield prospect Byron Chourio on January 20 in exchange for fellow Venezuelan infielder Luis Arraez.
“Luzardo is one of my best friends that I’ve (made) through baseball,” Lopez said prior to Tuesday’s game. “So I’m extremely grateful to have him as a person, as a friend, as a brother.”
Luzardo pitched four shutout innings against Team Israel in group play, allowing four hits, one walk, and racking up five strikeouts.
“Luzardo is such a great competitor,” López said. “He was just out there battling the way he does, competing with everything he got. And he’s always willing to go to that field and let everyone know he’s willing to die out there if you need him to be.”
López himself pitched 4 ⅔ innings in a win against Puerto Rico in front of 35,615 fans during pool play. He allowed just one run on two hits and struck out six. López was one of many who celebrated the idea of an intense World Series-type competition in mid-March.
“I think those are the situations that make us better,” López said. “Obviously as athletes and as baseball players, you’re always looking for that competition. You’re always looking for that extra gear moment…It’s just those opportunities that you try to cherish and soak in as much as you can.”
As this is the only series between the Twins and Marlins until next season, López and Luzardo made sure to catch up the day before their respective starts. On the outfield prior to Tuesday’s game, the two Venezuelan pitchers spoke about life, family, and of course, baseball.
“We don’t have to talk about it to know that (Wednesday) is going to be special,” López said. “It’s gonna be something we’ll remember.”
When the two faced each other as opponents for the first time in the series finale, they were equally brilliant. Both completed seven innings and combined for 18 strikeouts while allowing only one run apiece.
After the starters exited, the Marlins rallied against Minnesota’s bullpen to win, 5-2.
Jesus Luzardo’s final line:— Alex Krutchik (@AlexKrutchikCJN) April 5, 2023
7 IP, 1 R, 5 H, 10 K
What I’m most impressed with is the one walk. He had a 3.1 walks per 9 innings last year, and had 4 in his 1st start of the year a few days ago.
Walks seemed to be the last glaring weakness for him. If he’s fixed that, watch out
Asked about what it was like to be on the other side of a López start after Wednesday afternoon’s game, Luzardo said it didn’t feel “different,” but it was “funny” to him.
“I just sent him a text,” Luzardo said. “And we talked about it yesterday. It’s fun to get a pitcher’s duel, especially with him. I feel like we both pitched pretty well, so I’m happy about that.”