It was A.J. Puk Day for the first time in a year on Wednesday as the 25-year-old took the mound against the Kansas City Royals.
“I was feeling great,” Puk said after his outing. “Just real excited to get back out there and throw to someone wearing a different jersey than our guys and I felt really good out there, really comfortable and I felt I had good command of all my pitches, that was like the huge goal for me for today.”
Puk admitted he was a bit anxious Wednesday morning. He just wanted to get out there. And rightfully so. It was a highly-anticipated outing.
In two innings, Puk struck out four, giving up two hits -- one of them being a home run from Ryan McBroom.
Puk underwent shoulder surgery in 2020, missing the entirety of the regular season. This was after he underwent Tommy John surgery in April of 2018. His time in 2019 gave us his major league debut, but only in relief. In 11 1/3 innings, he struck out 13 and posted a 3.18 ERA.
“He gives up a homer and you always look to see what he does after that and I thought he pitched pretty well,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said after the game.
Puk’s velocity ticked down a bit, throwing around the 92-93 mph range -- he’s capable of hitting 97, but that didn’t appear to bother him.
“Maybe I’ll get the velocity fully back, maybe not,” Puk said. “I’m just more concerned going out and feeling good, feeling strong and healthy, and that’s where we’re at.”
With Puk on the up-and-up, it balances out Mike Fiers, who might not be ready by Opening Day after dealing with some hip inflammation. Puk is open to any role, but naturally prefers to be a starter. That’s where the A’s see him as well.
“It’s definitely a goal if Mike can’t go, I’m just here, I just want to pitch and be healthy, whether that’s starting our coming out the bullpen,” Puk said. “Whatever the team needs right now.”
All in all, a great outing for Puk.
“I was just real happy with what happened today,” Puk said … “other than the home run.”