A.J. Puk shows signs of dominance in return to mound
By David Hill
A.J. Puk may be the biggest wild card on the Oakland A’s pitching staff. There is no questioning his talent, as he has consistently ranked amongst the top prospects in the game prior to this season. However, it is a matter of actually getting Puk on the mound, as he missed all of 2018 and 2020 due to various injuries.
That made his return to the mound on Wednesday all the more intriguing. Given his layoff, the A’s were going to be cautious, but they also wanted to see signs that he was ready to take his place on the major league staff.
A.J. Puk impresses in return to mound
While his outing against the Royals was a mixed bag in terms of results, he showed signs of dominance. Yes, the two runs over two innings do not impress, especially the two run homer hit by Ryan McBroom in the first inning, but Puk has not pitched in an actual game situation in a year.
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What was impressive were the four strikeouts he notched in his two innings of work. Puk did not have his best stuff, with his fastball sitting in the low 90s instead of being the missile that we had been accustomed to seeing. He was able to throw first pitch strikes to eight of the nine batters he faced, getting swinging strikeouts on three of the four batters he punched out.
That was the biggest key to his return. He was able to use his other offerings effectively instead of relying on his four seamer. Not only did Puk throw his curve, slider, and two seamer for strikes, but he also mixed in the occasional changeup. There is hope that he will become the pitcher that the A’s had envisioned.
Considering how close Opening Day is, it is unlikely that Puk will be ready to take his spot in the rotation as soon as the season starts. He is hoping to throw 45 pitches in his next outing, and may be able to approach 70 pitches by the time the calendar turns to April. However, he may not need much more time to take his spot in the rotation.
A.J. Puk showed signs of being the dominant pitcher the Oakland A’s are hoping he will be. It is just a matter of building up his pitch count.