Just a few days ago, it seemed unlikely that A.J. Puk would be available for Opening Day. With the start of the season being pushed back, the A’s young lefty may be ready.
Five days ago seems almost like a lifetime with all of the happenings and cancelations recently. It was just Monday that the A’s had shut down young lefty A.J. Puk with a mild shoulder strain, expecting him to begin throwing a week later. However, with Opening Day scheduled just a week and a half later, it was possible that Puk would have to start the season on the shelf.
But that was then. Now, we find ourselves in an uncertain time when it comes to the start of the season. In theory, Opening Day has been pushed back two weeks, but even that seems like a pipe dream. Players will need to get back into game action, scheduling will need to be determined, and the simple logistics could make that impossible, not to mention the course of COVID-19.
While this delay is frustrating for fans and players alike, there are also some potential benefits. For the A’s, one of those possible bonuses to the extended time off is that Puk should be healthy for the start of the season, whenever that occurs.
It is difficult to truly know what the A’s have in Puk. He has been a consensus top 100 prospect for each of the past four years, armed with a 97 MPH fastball that can reach triple digits, an excellent slider, and a nasty change. He has all the makings of a top of the rotation starter, if he can stay healthy.
That last caveat is the problem. Puk missed all of 2018 due to Tommy Joh surgery, and was sidelined for a time last year with back spasms. However, he did manage to make his major league debut in 2019 as well, posting a 3.18 ERA and a 1.324 WHiP, with 13 strikeouts and five walks in 11.1 innings.
The hope is that Puk, along with fellow phenom Jesus Luzardo, can give the A’s a pair of aces atop the rotation for the foreseeable future. But in order for that to happen, Puk needs to stay healthy. With the extra time off, he may be ready to begin his ascension when the season finally begins.
The delayed start to the season is frustrating for many. For A.J. Puk, that delay may be what he needs to be ready come Opening Day.