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A’s starter A.J. Puk cleared of structural damage

The A’s avoided another serious injury to their prized prospect A.J. Puk, paving the way for him to contribute in 2020.

Oakland Athletics starting pitcher A.J. Puk pitches against the Los Angeles Angels during the sixth inning at the Oakland Coliseum. Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Some very good news came out of A’s camp on Thursday, as 24-year old A.J. Puk avoided serious injury in his pitching shoulder, according to Dr. Neal ElAttrache. He will do some strengthening work, but manager Bob Melvin is not sure yet what day they will target a return to throwing, per Alex Coffee.

Puk was originally diagnosed with a mild strain of his left shoulder and as you’d imagine, the A’s wanted to be cautious and get a good idea of what they were dealing with before allowing him to resume throwing. For a team that did minimal work during the offseason, Puk has been penciled in as a big part of their 2020 plans, as he’s vying to land a spot in their rotation.

Despite good news, Puk still expected to be limited in 2020

The plan coming into the season was that Puk was going to be capped around 120 innings. If anything, this could have scaled him back even more but the news that no damage occurred doesn’t change much. Puk underwent Tommy John surgery in early 2018 and was able to pitch for the A’s midway through 2019. At the time, he was ranked as their top pitching prospect and was finally able to show his stuff in a small sample last season. Through 11 13 innings out of the bullpen, Puk allowed four runs on 10 hits while striking out 13. He’s boasted some amazing swing-and-miss potential and generated a 13.8% rate in those appearances.

A’s hoping Puk can contribute in the rotation in 2020

One of the reasons the A’s were so quiet during the offseason is that they’re banking on internal options to fill the voids in the rotation. Jesus Luzardo and Frankie Montas will help fill those voids as they’re coming back from an injury and a suspension respectively. Puk will be in the mix as well and the A’s are hoping the potential he’s flashed in the minors will translate as a major league starter with his ability to miss bats.