During A’s Fan Fest earlier this year, Jesús Luzardo was asked about players he looked up to growing up. On Friday, his answer came full circle.
The A’s top prospect said it was two-time All-Star pitcher Dontrelle Willis. The nine-year MLB veteran was watching Luzardo pitch Friday night in the A’s 8-7 extra-innings win over the Giants … as an analyst for NBC Sports California.
It wasn’t Luzardo’s best outing, and only his third career MLB start, but he finished in just 3 1/3 innings after giving up nine hits and six earned runs while striking out three.
Luzardo, despite the pitching line, said his body and arm felt the best they have all year.
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He found out at 10 a.m. Friday morning he would be pitching in place of Frankie Montas, who was scratched due to back stiffness. It was plenty of time to get ready, and Luzardo didn’t blame his start getting pushed up for his bad outing.
“That had nothing to do with this, this was just kind of on me — whatever it was, my stuff wasn’t playing right, or my mentality,” Luzardo said. “I got to go back and look at the video and see what it was, but it wasn’t being pushed up a day.”
Luzardo knew Willis was on the pre- and postgame shows and said he was happy knowing the guy he watched play in South Florida with the Marlins back in the day was watching him. The rookie just wished for a better outcome.
“I think that’s awesome. I saw that he was calling this game, I thought that was pretty cool,” Luzardo said. “I wish I probably would have pitched a little better knowing he was there, but he was a guy I looked up to growing up, especially being from South Florida so it’s cool having him there.”
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After hearing what Luzardo said, Willis instantly placed his hand on his chest and flashed his typical smile.
“It totally means the world, and there’s no monetary value for paying it forward,” Willis said on “A’s Postgame Live.” “Every time I see [Dave Stewart], I make sure I mention how much he meant to me in my life, and getting a chance to talk to Jesús, and just hearing how excited he was to talk to me and I was just truly honored.”
“He’s going to be a star,” Willis added.
Jess Luzardo roughed up by Giants with hero Dontrelle Willis watching originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area