Can A.J. Puk ever become what the Oakland A’s need?

Sep 1, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher A.J. Puk (33) throws during the seventh inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 1, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher A.J. Puk (33) throws during the seventh inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /
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Time is starting to run out for A.J. Puk. Once one of the more highly regarded pitching prospects in the game, Puk had battled injuries for years, leaving his future role in doubt. While the Oakland A’s claim that they still envision him as a starter, it is probable that he will end up as a reliever for the long term.

That had been Puk’s role this season. With his high octane fastball and excellent slider, Puk has the potential to be a weapon in the late innings as a lefty reliever. Once he got on track in Triple-A, that belief became even louder.

A.J. Puk disappoints once again

Puk had started his second stint in the majors well, with seven scoreless outings in his first nine appearances. This included a five game scoreless run to begin his 2021 campaign. But things began to fall apart for Puk, just as they had for the rest of the A’s bullpen.

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His last three outings were a disaster. Although he had fired a scoreless inning on September 5, that was sandwiched between two games where he allowed five runs on seven hits and a walk while recording just one out. It was not a surprise that, after his most recent implosion, the A’s optioned him back to Las Vegas for Miguel Romero.

These struggles bring back the original question about Puk – will he ever be able to become the pitcher that the A’s had hoped for? Previously, injuries had been the cause of his cloudy outlook. This time, it is fair to wonder if he will be able to harness his electric stuff for a long enough period to reach his potential.

That has been the biggest question about Puk, even in his days as a top prospect. There is no questioning his pure stuff, especially that electric fastball/slider combination. However, he has battled his command at times, which gave him that potential to be a reliever. But eventually, that promise will need to turn into consistent results. That has yet to happen.

Next. A's bullpen woes begin with rotation. dark

A.J. Puk still has the potential to be the weapon the Oakland A’s had envisioned. But with every day that passes, his opportunity fades a little more.

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