Lugo is establishing his presence in Mahoning Valley
Often, it’s the off-the-field questions that will lead to the truth behind a certain player. Their off-time activities, their friends, or their attitude will often identify an understanding as to what kind of person lies beneath the hat and the cleats.
Sometimes, it’s the first encounter from afar, as well.
At media day for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, an excruciatingly humid day, most players were trying to stay comfortable as they were taking pictures, talking to reporters, and meeting their teammates. They wore t-shirts under their uniforms, comfortable shoes, and towels around their neck to wipe away the sweat.
Then comes a slender 6’5, 200-pound kid, wearing a full turtleneck underneath his uniform. His socks were pulled all the way up to his knees, and his cleats were on his feet. He looked as if he was about to play a game in October rather than meet with the media in June.
That tall, very-warm young man was Luis Lugo, a 19 year-old pitcher out of Barquisimeto, Lara, Venezuela; one of the best prospects in the Indians organization.
From that moment on, it was very obvious that Lugo walked to the beat of his own drum. It’s not so much that he doesn’t follow instruction, in fact the opposite. He’s a very diligent and structured young man.
“I have my routine every day," Lugo said. "I have my routine two days before I start [where I] sleep mostly early those two nights and eat healthy. Then I go out and stretch with the team. After that, I come in the clubhouse and hangout till 6:30. Then, I go out and stretch again and do my bullpen and I’m ready to go.”
While he follows orders as closely as possible, he’s different and he doesn’t care, or even notice.
While most players like to hang out with friends, play video games, or even play golf, Lugo, with a huge smile on his face, offered a glimpse into his favorite leisure-time activity.
“I’m a big fan of fishing," Lugo said. "When I have time I go fishing. I’ve never been fishing around here, but I went a lot in Arizona.”
At that moment, Lugo’s story made sense.
When Luis Lugo toes the rubber, he possesses this calm about him. No situation seems too big or no batter too fearsome. Spending time on the lake, the river, and the ocean makes sense for Luis Lugo; he’s all about serenity. It’s this mentality that is going to help him make a big impact on the mound someday.
Lugo is a huge-bodied pitcher with extremely long arms and legs. Had you never watched him pitch, you’d believe he’s a hard-throwing power pitcher. You’d think he’d be aggressive. You’d think that he would blow hitters away. He’s actually quite the contrary.
“I try to be a finesse guy who can put the ball where I want it,” Lugo explained. “I am working on that. I am not trying to throw the ball as hard as I can. I’m trying to throw the ball low and command the zone."
Lugo is a pitcher that focuses on an incredible ability to locate pitches. He’s a finese pitcher with great “stuff”, as it’s known in the business. No matter how good he is, and will be, he’s still honing his craft.
“Right now, I’m working on my curveball with Scott (Erickson), my pitching coach,” Lugo said. “That’s the biggest thing I’m working on.”
It’s through all of this, the mentality, the work ethic, and the attitude, that Lugo is so effective.
This season, Lugo has put up spectacular numbers, while falling victim to a lack of run support.
In five starts, Lugo has pitched 21 innings, (one of which was a one inning start, thanks to a rain delay), compiling a 2.14 ERA with only 17 hits, six runs, five earned runs, and two talks allowed.
Until his last start Sunday against the State College Spikes, in four previous outings Lugo had only allowed one run, a solo home run to Tim Collins of the Jamestown Jammers. His ERA was a whopping 0.56.
On Sunday, Lugo still pitched a perfect three innings until the Spikes ended his streak of 14 consecutive scoreless innings. A run in the fourth and three more in the fifth chased Lugo out of the game for the first time this season.
Disparaged, Lugo tweeted, “The last battle is always win in enemy territory #nexttime.”
With some run support, there’s no reason to believe his 1-2 mark on the season shouldn’t be flip-flopped, or even perfect. In his five starts for the Scrappers, his offense has given him a paltry total of six runs, three of which came in the loss on Sunday.
While his offense has been discouraging, everything else has been positive for Lugo. He’s made effective use of the opportunities he’s been given, he’s proved himself as a “coaches pet”, and has proved that his serene style of work is more than effective. As the tweet showed, Lugo is resilient and willing to work through any situation.
For a kid who is so calm and serene, a kid who loves to be out on the lake by himself, he certainly would enjoy your presence at the ballpark.
When asked about his favorite part about the experience in Mahoning Valley, he quickly replied, “The crowd. Yea, I like to pitch to fans. I love that.”
While he may not show it, he certainly loves and appreciates the Scrappers faithful who fill the park night in and night out. It’s all a part of his dream.
“This is pretty cool," Lugo beamed. "This is a dream come true. Last year, things didn’t come true, but this year it came true. I feel really happy for that.”
Whether it’s on the lake or the mound, the Luis Lugo you see is the Luis Lugo you get. People will try to sway him to be on one way or another, but at the end of the day, Lugo will be just fine the way that he is.
Matt Whitehouse was the Tribe's 19th round pick this year. So far at MV his line is:
15 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 12 K, 0.60 ERA, and a .130 BAA.
Not a bad start.
Lugo has only 10 K's in 21 innings, so he is definitely a finesse lefty who pitches to contact. Hopefully he develops into a 6'5" Jamie Moyer.