A.J. Puk working his way up the bullpen hierarchy

Apr 9, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher A.J. Puk (33) throws a pitch in the seventh inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 9, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher A.J. Puk (33) throws a pitch in the seventh inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Oakland A’s had big plans for A.J. Puk this season. He was expected to be used in the same way that Josh Hader had been, serving as the A’s fireman to get through any rough patches in an attempt to preserve the game. Of course, that was provided that the A’s had those leads to preserve.

It also depended on how Puk would perform during the regular season. His spring training did not give much room for hope, as he allowed seven runs on ten hits and seven walks over his 9.2 innings, striking out eight. While spring training statistics do not matter, especially in the case of a shortened spring where players are trying to ramp up in a hurry.

A.J. Puk starting to earn Oakland A’s trust

Nonetheless, the A’s had to hope that Puk would right the ship once the regular season started. Considering that they were placing such high hopes on his left arm, he needed to have a strong start once the games began to count.

That has been the case thus far. Puk has allowed just one run on three hits and a walk in his four innings, striking out five batters. He earned his first hold of the year on Thursday in the A’s 6-3 victory over the Rays.

Chances are, this is just the beginning. The A’s closer situation is not exactly etched in stone, with Lou Trivino having been shaky at times last year. Both Trivino and Dany Jimenez have earned saves thus far as well. It would not be a surprise to see Puk get the ball for the ninth inning in the near future as well.

It all comes back to being able to earn the A’s trust. Puk is starting to do that now that he is the bullpen, getting his stuff to translate to his relief role. Earning the hold on Thursday, and continuing to pitch well when he is given the ball, is a start in that direction.

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The Oakland A’s have high hopes for A.J. Puk this season. If he continues to perform as well as he has, he will earn that trust going forward.

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