Puk's Long Hair and Arm Troubles Both Are Gone, and Athletics' LHP Ready for Big Things

John Hickey

The next time you see A.J. Puk on a pitching mound sporting green and gold, he’s not going to look the same.

A couple of days before flying to the Bay Area to join the Oakland A’s in their workouts at the Coliseum, the 6-foot-7 left-hander cut his hair. Actually, he had his high school baseball coach cut his hair, but you get the idea.

He left the those flowing locks, all 10, 12 or more inches of them, at home with his mother, who is looking to donate them, assuming chair can be donated in a time of coronavirus.

Before the trim, Puk spent three months at home in Iowa. He threw some, but most of his workouts had to be truncated, so he took up running. And through it all, he lost about 10 pounds, which also has changed his look some.

You can add in the work he did on his delivery while he was doing his throwing back home. Over time he’d felt a pinch in his left shoulder as he threw, but the changes he’s made have got rid of that pinching feeling.

His arm, two years removed from Tommy John surgery, is feeling, he says, better than ever. All of which is good news for the A’s who hope to get rookie lefties Puk and Jesus Luzardo what the club believes will be a high-end starting rotation. Luzardo, with whom Puk still plans on rooming, has tested positive for COVID-19, but the A’s are hoping to get him back soon enough for him to be a force in the rotation by sometime in August.

“I was able to clean up some of my mechanics,” Puk said Friday afternoon in a video conference call before the A’s evening workout. “It was just a long grind coming back form Tommy John and then ramping it back up.”

Puk would have his throwing sessions put on video and would ship them to the A’s training staff for their advice, and with their advice he said “everything’s kind of coming together right now.”

The 23-year-old said he cleanup up his direction as he threw and altered his arm angle to where “it’s just a little bit higher right now than what it was.” And that helped get rid of the pinching sensation he’d felt a bit in his left shoulder in Spring Training.

“It’s been gone,” Puk said of the discomfort. And the 60-game scheduled means that Puk, now that he’s feeling strong, isn’t going to have any innings limits against him. And he is absolutely looking forward to getting the most out of the 10-12 starts he might be expected to get between July 24-Sept. 27.

“And the postseason, too,” he said

His hope is that he and Luzardo will join with Mike Fiers, Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas to make one of the stronger starting rotations in the game.

“It’s definitely exciting to think about every single one of those guys, as talented as they are,” Puk said. “The older guys have been helping out the younger guys, just giving us some advice here and there. So, it’s been definitely exciting to think about what could happen.”

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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