Oakland Athletics: Delayed season could be good news for A.J. Puk

Oakland Athletics (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
Oakland Athletics (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images) /

Oakland Athletics pitcher A.J. Puk was expected to begin the season in the bullpen, but the delayed season could be good news for the young left-hander.

The Oakland Athletics went into the 2020 season with high hopes for young pitcher A.J. Puk. After making his debut in August of last year, many expected Puk to step in next year and claim his rightful place in the starting rotation.

Unfortunately, a spring training injury threatened to halt that plan.

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Puk was shut down in early March after he experienced some discomfort in his throwing shoulder during a scheduled bullpen session. An MRI revealed no structural damage, but a mild shoulder strain.

On one hand, it was encouraging to hear that Puk’s injury wasn’t serious — especially given his history with Tommy John surgery. But on the other hand, it still was expected to result in a setback for the A’s coveted young hurler.

Puk was shut down imminently and soon after, the entirety of the MLB was as well.

At first, it seemed as though the injury would cost Puk a spot in the rotation. Manager Bob Melvin wasn’t going to rush the 24-year-old back from injury and he seemed destined to start the year in the bullpen.

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But Puk is one of a collection of players throughout the MLB rehabbing injuries who could benefit from the extra rehab time allotted by the current league postponement.

It’s unclear when the plan was for Puk to start throwing again, but it’s obvious that the current climate has altered plans. Still, this temporary league shutdown has given Puk the opportunity to recover and grow more comfortable in a starting role.

After all, the University of Florida product pitched in 10 games for the A’s last season — all coming in relief. He was able to find moderate success and the top prospect was expected to transition into a full-time rotation role this season.

Now, that plan could still be enacted with the expectedly shortened season.

Puk may not have the benefit of playing a full MLB season — or whatever his pitch limit would have allowed. But he should be in-line to earn starting experience right away once the season finally kicks off.

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And that could prove more valuable than anything.