Athletics

A's top prospects A.J, Puk, Jesús Luzardo shine in rehab appearances

A's top prospects A.J, Puk, Jesús Luzardo shine in rehab appearances

STOCKTON, Calif. – While the A's were busy beating the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night, the eyes of the organization were closely fixed on Stockton.

Multiple front office members, including general manager David Forst, were on hand to watch the franchise's top two prospects -- left-handers Jesús Luzardo and A.J. Puk -- make rehab appearances for the Class-A Stockton Ports. And both pitched extremely well.

It was Puk's first game since undergoing Tommy John surgery last April. The 24-year-old got the start and tossed two impressive innings, striking out four and walking one.

The only hit Puk allowed was a solo home run to Giants prospect Heliot Ramos. Aside from that, he was dominant, sitting at 98-99 mph with his fastball and mixing in his other pitches effectively.

“I felt great," Puk said after the game. "First game back, I was happy to throw all of my pitches. Something to build on moving forward."

Luzardo was just as impressive in his first game since being shut down with a shoulder strain in late March. The 21-year-old threw three scoreless innings, allowing just two singles. He also struck out two, pumping his fastball at 96-98 mph.

“I was really happy just to be out there with no pain," Luzardo said. "I thought all of my pitches were working pretty well, so I can't complain. I thought I executed how I wanted to and being pain-free was my main thing."

Puk and Luzardo both threw 33 pitches and showed impressive command. Puk recorded 22 strikes and 11 balls. while Luzardo tallied 24 strikes and nine balls.

“It felt good," Puk said. "All the work that you put in for the whole rehab, you come out feeling great. I was really happy about it.”

Luzardo was happy with his fastball velocity and command, but another pitch stuck out to him even more.

“I would say my breaking ball was probably the best-feeling pitch I had today," he said. "But all three (fastball, slider, changeup) were working pretty well and I was happy with the result.”

Luzardo and Puk embraced the experience of pitching back-to-back. Not only are they Oakland's top two prospects, but they have also become close friends off the field.

Said Puk: "We kind of talked about that for a little bit, like, 'Who's gonna start? Who's gonna start?' We kind of gave each other some crap about that. But it was cool, definitely.”

Luzardo laughed when it was suggested that Puk had bragging rights from earning the start.

"It's a friendly little competition, but it was funny," he said. "I enjoy it.”

[RELATED: A's newcomer Anderson makes strong case for another start]

Both left-handers will remain with Stockton for at least one more rehab appearance. From there, both hope to eventually pitch for the A's sometime this season.

Based on their performances Tuesday night, that seems like a strong possibility.

A's Stephen Piscotty to make emotional to St. Louis against Cardinals

A's Stephen Piscotty to make emotional to St. Louis against Cardinals

For the second series in a row, there will be an emotional reunion in St. Louis.

This past weekend, Albert Pujols returned to Busch Stadium for the first time since he left the Cardinals in 2011, as the Angels paid a rare visit to the Gateway City. Now it's Stephen Piscotty's turn to face his former team when the A's and Cards open a two-game series Tuesday night.

Piscotty certainly doesn't figure to receive the massive welcome that Pujols saw -- the latter is arguably the greatest player in Cardinals history -- but considering the circumstances of his departure, he will likely enjoy a similar sentiment.

Piscotty, 28, spent his first three major league seasons in St. Louis, tallying 38 home runs and 163 RBI with a .784 OPS. Following the 2017 season, however, the Cardinals famously traded the Pleasanton native to Oakland so that he could be closer to his mother Gretchen, who had been diagnosed with ALS.

Sadly, she passed away in 2018.

To this day, Piscotty remains extremely grateful to the Cardinals organization for granting his trade request and allowing him to spend that extra time with his mother.

[RELATED: A's prospect Neuse making whole lot of noise in Las Vegas]

Piscotty has already experienced some emotional at-bats following his mother's passing. His very first at-bat resulted in a single, following a lengthy standing ovation from the Oakland crowd. Then, in his first at-bat since returning from the bereavement list, Piscotty homered over the Green Monster in Boston.

It's sure to be another powerful moment Tuesday night when Piscotty steps into the batter's box at Busch Stadium.

A's prospect Sheldon Neuse honored for huge week at plate in Triple-A

A's prospect Sheldon Neuse honored for huge week at plate in Triple-A

A's prospect Sheldon Neuse is making a whole lot of noise with the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators. 

The infielder was named to MLB.com's Prospect Team of the Week on Monday after hitting .500 with two home runs over a six-game span.

Neuse had his nine-game hitting streak come to an end Sunday when he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. Prior to that, the 24-year-old was on fire at the plate. 

Neuse, the A's No. 9 prospect, hit .623 with three homers over his nine-game hitting streak. 

Though Neuse has the talent to join a long list of A's prospect who could make their major-league debut this season, it will be hard to find a spot for him on the big-league roster. Neuse's primary position is third base, and that's clearly locked up with star-in-the-making Matt Chapman.

He does have experience at a few other spots, however. 

While Neuse has played 64 games at the hot corner this season, he's also played two games at second base and four innings in left field, the first time he's put on an outfielder's glove in his minor league career. There has to be a place for his bat, though. 

[RELATED: Bob Melvin isn't sweating A's-Rays series split]

Neuse has hit at every level so far as a minor leaguer. He's batting .318 with a .928 OPS and 11 home runs this season. Since being picked by the Nationals in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft, Neuse owns a .290 batting average with a .787 OPS and 33 career homers. 

Neuse is not yet on the A's 40-man roster. For now, he'll have to keep doing what he's doing in Las Vegas -- hit, and then hit some more.