Athletics

Why A's prospect A.J. Puk has settled in over his last few outings

Why A's prospect A.J. Puk has settled in over his last few outings

A.J. Puk's major league career got off to a little bit of a slow start, but that sure didn't last long.

After allowing a run on a hit and two walks in his first two appearances, the A's No. 2 prospect has surrendered just one more earned run in his last seven innings, with seven strikeouts.

Most recently, Puk tossed two perfect innings in Texas on Friday night. The 6-foot-7 left-hander has maintained an ERA of 2.45 through his first seven outings.

"He looks like he's starting to settle in a little bit," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "I think (being) able to throw all of his pitches now is something that's going to be key for him. ... Each and every time out there, he looks like he settles in that much easier and looks that much more calm."

As Melvin noted, Puk has only recently been able to throw all four of his pitches. Coming off Tommy John surgery, the 24-year-old was initially limited to his fastball and slider because his changeup caused him discomfort. Now he's throwing both his changeup and curveball again, and it's made a huge difference.

"When you go out there with a limited arsenal and you get to the big leagues and you're counted on and now you don't have all of your weapons, it's hard," Melvin said. "We've kind of worked through this to where he can throw all of his pitches now and it's certainly showed up. His strikeouts -- he can make guys look bad."

It's not like Puk can't get by with just his fastball and slider -- each pitch is devastating on both left and right-handed hitters. His four-seam fastball clocks in close to 100 mph and his slider can make even the best hitters look foolish. But now, Puk can keep hitters honest with his changeup, which has made his fastball even more effective.

Beginning next year, Puk figures to slot into the A's starting rotation, but since he is on an innings limit this season following surgery, he will continue to work in relief. He has already pitched multiple innings on three occasions, and on Thursday and Friday, he pitched on back-to-back days for the first time since getting called up.

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"Originally, if he pitched two innings, he would need two days off," Melvin explained. "Now, we're not necessarily going to do that. So we're starting to make some progress with him in how we can use him, and I think the more he's out there, the more comfortable he gets."

Source: Free agent second baseman Eric Sogard interested in A's return

Source: Free agent second baseman Eric Sogard interested in A's return

Having a lefty bat at the second base position continues to be one of the A's main focuses this offseason

That could mean reuniting with Eric Sogard. A source tells NBC Sports California the 34-year-old is open to returning to Oakland.

Sogard, currently a free agent, had an exceptional campaign in 2019 slashing .290/.353/.457 with 13 homers across 110 games with the Blue Jays and the Rays. He was part of the Tampa Bay squad that came to the AL Wild-Card Game in Oakland and celebrated in the visitors' clubhouse.

A's fans remember the outcome of that. 

The second baseman spent six seasons with the A's from 2010-15 where he accumulated a .239 average with eight home runs and 105 RBI. 

The A's traded second baseman Jurickson Profar to the Padres on Dec. 2, so they have a need at the position.

Despite picking up a talented second baseman during Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, the team will still seek a more prominent starter at the position. 

[RELATED: A's are focused on keeping young stars]

The A's reportedly are interested in bringing current Mets second baseman Jed Lowrie back for the third time -- but there are 10 million reasons as to why the Mets wouldn't make a trade.

Did we mention Sogard bats left-handed yet?

2019 MLB Rule 5 Draft: A's lose Mark Payton, acquire minor leaguers

2019 MLB Rule 5 Draft: A's lose Mark Payton, acquire minor leaguers

As teams headed down south to the Winter Meetings in San Diego, the two main goals for the A's appeared to be finding a left-handed bat at second base, as well as continuing conversations with relief pitchers.

While the A's didn't make any huge acquisitions during the meetings, the 2019 Rule 5 Draft came and went as it does every year. With that, Oakland selected three players in the minor-league phase of the draft and had a couple more transactions as well.

Second baseman Vimael Machin was acquired from the Phillies for cash considerations. He will be competing for a roster spot.

The 26-year-old slashed .295/.390/.412 with seven home runs and 65 RBI across the Double and Triple-A teams in the Chicago Cubs organization last season. 

Jason Krizan was selected from the Mets during the Triple-A phase. The 30-year-old outfielder hit .275 across two teams last season. 

The Athletic's prospect writer Emily Waldon says he's going to be a solid addition to the A's organization.

"His walk rate has always been impressive," Waldon told NBC Sports California. "He doesn't have a ton of swing and misses, with some raw power, with eight to ten home run seasons. He's also a dependable defender with a good veteran presence." Waldon also joked Krizan has "80-grade sarcasm."

The A's also selected catcher Jose Colina, who put up some massive numbers with the Arizona League Indians Blue after signing with Cleveland as a minor-league free agent in June. The 21-year-old slashed .372/.443/.744 with eight homers and 20 RBI.

Right-handed pitcher Deivy Mendez rounds the group out. In 25 appearances across Single-A and Short-A last season with the Padres organization, he went 2-1 with six saves and a 4.20 ERA, striking out 33. 

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The Cincinnati Reds selected outfielder Mark Payton, who was claimed off waivers by the A's in December of 2018. Payton was selected during the major league phase of the draft which, according to Waldon, has the A's losing some muscle at the plate.

However, scouts reportedly didn't see the 28-year-old "doing a great deal outside of filling some needs." That power is what has gotten the most talk around Payton. 

Payton took advantage of the PCL last season with Triple-A Las Vegas and slashed .334/.400/.653 with 30 home runs and 97 RBI in 118 games.