As much as the Oakland A’s want A.J. Puk to be a part of their rotation in 2021, his fit on the roster is not set in stone.
There is no secret that the Oakland A’s want A.J. Puk to fill out their rotation as their fifth starter. He has the potential to be a top of the rotation arm, a flamethrowing lefty with a devasting slider who could pair with Jesus Luzardo to give Oakland the type of arms they need. At least, that is the A’s hope.
But that does not mean that Puk’s role is set in stone. He has battled injuries over the years, with just 36.2 innings since the start of 2018. He has undergone Tommy John surgery and numerous issues with his shoulder, essentially losing most of the last three seasons.
Due to those injury woes, Puk’s long term role is in question. Manager Bob Melvin did not exactly make anything clearer, as he stated that while Puk is likely to be stretched out as a starter in spring training, his role could ultimately come down to what the A’s need.
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Oakland does have other potential options for the rotation should Puk slot into a relief role. Daulton Jefferies, James Kaprielian, and Grant Holmes are all close to major league ready, if they are not already there. While one or more of those pitchers could be ticketed to a role in the bullpen, using Puk in such a manner opens a spot in the rotation.
His performance in the bullpen in 2019 lends credence to the thought that he would be a dominant option in relief. Puk allowed four runs on ten hits and five walks in his 11.1 innings, striking out 13 batters. With that fastball and slider, Puk could be a weapon in the later innings, possibly emerging as a candidate to close.
In the end, Puk’s role could come down to what the A’s biggest need is heading into spring training. They do need to find four arms for the bullpen, and have just one lefty in presumed closer Jake Diekman. Adding Puk to that mix could solve several problems.
The Oakland A’s still envision A.J. Puk as a starter. His role for the coming year may be completely different depending on their needs.