A Bit of Good News for Athletics’ Smith on Injury; Puk Return Seems Closer

Rookie reliever Burch Smith’s Monday MRI indicated that he’d suffered no damage to the ligament implanted into his right arm, but he will be shut down for at least two weeks. At the same time, lefty rookie A.J. Puk is getting closer to a return after another throwing session at the club’s alternate site in San Jose.
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A’s reliever Burch Smith got some good news from the results of the MRI taken of his right forearm Monday.

Even so, the news that the strain that sent him to the injured list didn’t compromise the implanted ligament in his arm from Tommy John surgery doesn’t necessarily mean the A’s can expect to see him pitch for them again in a compacted 2020 season.

Manager Bob Melvin, while reporting that ligament appears to be intact, said Smith will be shut down for two weeks without throwing a baseball. Had this happened three weeks into a 162-game season, he’d have a good chance to pitch again, but in a season trimmed to 60 games, that return has become much more problematic.

At the same time, A.J. Puk appears closer to a return to Oakland. He threw a 30-pitch bullpen session on Monday, will throw another later in the week, and it’s possible that that time this the A’s might be able to make a decision on activating him from the injured list.

“(Smith’s injury) is in the belly of the forearm,” Melvin said, describing the Smith injury as muscular in nature. “It seems that when you have a 60-gmae season, that’s a long time, and it is.

“We were hoping that the ligament wasn’t involved, and that does not appear to be the case. It’s going to take some time before he even plays catch, so whether or not he pitches again this year, I’m not certain. But I’m really happy that we’re not talking about the ligament.”

As for Puk, who went on the injured list in July just as it seemed he would be starting the season in the Oakland rotation, Melvin seems optimistic.

“He probably gets two days off and throws another one,” the manager said.

As for Puk, they A’s aren’t feeling the need to rush him back. Chris Bassitt, Monday night’s starter in Arizona, is in the rotation because of the injury to Puk, and all Bassitt has done is put together a 2-0 record 2.42 ERA that ranks in the top 10 in the league.

And Frankie Montas, who was scratched from a start on Friday, is on pace to return to the rotation in the second game in Arizona on Tuesday, the final game of an eight-game road trip.

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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