A.J. Puk | Getty Images

Justin Edmonds / Stringer

The A’s look to the future for help now to make the playoffs

ESPN Radio
August 20, 2019 - 6:24 pm

By Charlie O @Charlieo1320

The future has arrived in Oakland. He is 6-foot-7, weighs 240 pounds and throws a left-handed fastball that has reached 99 mph in the minor leagues this summer. His name is A.J. Puk, and he was the Athletics number one (sixth overall selection) in the 2016 First-Year Player Draft. The entire organization was thrilled to sign a young, left-handed pitcher with superior skills.

Puk zoomed through the Oakland minor league organization. After spending 2016 in the short-season rookie league, he was promoted to Double-A midway through the 2017 season. He appeared to be on the fast track to the big club.

The plan was for him to start out in Triple-A in the 2018 season and then be promoted when needed to the majors. Then, it happened. Puk suffered the dreaded torn ulnar collateral ligament which requires the now famous “Tommy John Surgery” to repair. The question became – would Puk be the same outstanding pitcher after the surgery? Only time and “rehab” would tell.

Puk has worked his way through the minor league system in 2019 as he continued rehabilitation by pitching in actual game conditions. At Triple-A Las Vegas, he established a record of 4-1 with an ERA of 4.91 in nine appearances. Puk has given up seven runs (six earned) off seven hits. He has struck out 16 batters while walking just three and hitting one. Three of the hits he has given up have been home runs but Las Vegas is known for being home run haven because of the heat and thin air. Opposing batters are hitting just .175 against Puk who sports a WHIP of 0.91.

Puk has only been pitching one to two innings per outing, so he will be working out of the bullpen. He will not been returning to the role of a starter until at least next season, and it still remains to be determined if Puk will ever return to being a starter or will become a dominating closer.

Do not be surprised to see the A’s use Puk on Tuesday night against the Yankees. The Bronx Bombers are like a “black hole” that sucks their opponents inside it and they are never seen again. The Yanks are 83-43 for the season and are 7-3 in their last 10 games. Their road record is 34-23. The A’s need wins to stay in the Wild Card race, so they are pulling out all the stops to beat the Yankees.

This could be the beginning of a new era for the Oakland Athletics.

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