Baseball on Hold for A's Birthday Boy A.J. Puk, Just Like For Everyone Else

John Hickey

It’s a good bet that two months ago, A.J. Puk never thought he’d be celebrating his birthday with no idea when he would pitch again.

The Oakland A’s rookie lefty has been through that. He spent most of last year not seeing any game action while working his way back after Tommy John surgery.

Even this spring, after being shut down for a bit after making two Cactus League starts, Puk was throwing again and the only question was whether or not he’d begin the season in the starting rotation or in the bullpen.

It was as a reliever that he came up to make his Major League debut last August, throwing in 10 games, going 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA while striking out 13 in 11.1 innings.

And now, on the occasion of his 25 birthday today, he’s back home in Iowa, telling the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this month that he’s working out as best he can in his family’s home gym and also throwing off the mound at an indoor facility.

He said he’s back to full health, saying “this is the best my shoulder has felt in a while coming back,” from the Tommy John surgery, so the A’s may be inclined to use him as a starter.

That would mean there would have to be actual baseball played, and so far, that’s not happening. But Puk, like most of his teammates, continue to work out under the assumption that Major League Baseball will find a workaround to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and play, one way or another.

One way baseball’s lockdown has hurt A’s fans has been the delay it has put on Oakland being able to show off its two prized rookie left-handed starters, Puk and Jesus Luzardo, who probably both be Rookie of the Year candidates.

Puk had given a hint of what might be ahead during his two Cactus League starts, three innings, two hits, one walk, two strikeouts and no runs allowed.

In the 18 games he pitched after coming back from injury, just four were starts, but he’s always been a starter, always wanted to be a starter and over the last three years the 6-foor-7 lefty with the lock locks has had a couple of sit-down sessions with another big lefty with long hair, Hall of Famer Randy Johnson at the prompting of A’s manager Bob Melvin, who like the rest of the A’s organization sees former first-round draft pick Puk as a top-end starting pitcher.

The only question now is when.

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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