Oakland A’s hoping A.J. Puk can be next Josh Hader

Sep 5, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher A.J. Puk (33) pitches against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 5, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher A.J. Puk (33) pitches against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Oakland A’s were hoping that A.J. Puk would be a key part of their rotation for years to come. Armed with a high octane fastball and devastating slider, he also had two other offerings that were roughly average. The hope was that he would continue to develop his command and climb through the ranks, emerging as a future ace.

That has not been the case. Injuries derailed that plan, forcing Puk into a bullpen role. However, the A’s still have high hopes for him as they are planning to have him follow the same path as Brewers All Star Josh Hader.

Oakland A’s have high hopes for A.J. Puk

It is far too soon to compare Puk to Hader. While both pitchers have similar profiles, Hader was dominant almost immediately as a major leaguer. The same cannot be said for Puk, as he has posted a 4.74 ERA and a 1.581 WHiP in his 24.2 innings, striking out 29 batters with 11 walks.

But one can see why the A’s would imagine that he could follow in those footsteps. His upper 90s fastball and slider make it easy to compare the two. If Puk can stay healthy, and further command his impressive stuff, he could be a devasting weapon in the back of the A’s bullpen for years to come.

It also helps that the ninth inning is not a given in Oakland. Lou Trivino is listed as the A’s closer, but he does not have a firm grasp upon the role. While the expectations are that Puk will serve as a fireman type, he could emerge as the A’s closer by the end of the year.

This also puts an end to the idea that Puk would be in the rotation. While he was nominally listed as being part of the competition for the final starting spot, he had been used exclusively as a reliever during the spring. While the results have been shaky, as he has allowed four runs on five hits and six walks over 5.2 innings with six strikeouts, he has performed better as spring training has continued. It is enough to give the A’s hope that he can finally become a weapon for the organization.

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A.J. Puk’s days as a starting pitcher are over. The Oakland A’s are hoping to turn him into their own version of Josh Hader and find their next bullpen ace.

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