A's ready to use A.J. Puk in ‘a big spot' in making major league debut


OAKLAND -- A.J. Puk's major-league debut has been a long time coming. The A's believe it will be worth the wait.

Puk, 24, has been ranked as the A's No. 2 prospect for the last four years. After undergoing Tommy John surgery last spring, the 6-foot-7 left-hander is finally ready to take the field at the Coliseum.

"I’m really excited to just get out here and compete and try to help the team," Puk said. "It's been a long year -- a lot of work -- and it's paid off. I'm happy to be here."

The A's are certainly happy to have him as well. In the long-term, Puk will be a starting pitcher, but since he's on an innings limit following his surgery, he will join the bullpen for the stretch run.

"I'm not afraid to use him in a big spot," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "Now he's in the big leagues, the training wheels are off, and I'm looking forward to seeing him out there."

Puk has dominant stuff that should play right away in the majors. His fastball sits in the high 90s and can even touch 100, and his slider is absolutely devastating against either left-handed or right-handed batters.

"I see a fungo with long hair," joked NBC Sports California analyst Dallas Braden. "I also see a dude who has thunder coming out of that left arm and I see who I think understands how important and how valuable he can be, even in a short burst right now."

Melvin summed up Puk's stuff in a similar, if not as colorful, manner.

"Well, he throws rather hard. He's got a pretty good slider. Up to this point, he's developed into the guy that we kind of expected him to. ... We've been excited watching his progress and we're excited to have him."

Puk should significantly upgrade an Oakland bullpen that has dealt with its share of struggles this season. 

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"What he's potentially capable of allows some other guys to settle in and maybe take a load off," Braden explained. "There's no doubt that, if necessary, he's poised for a big moment. That's what he has to know he's here for."

Puk will have his entire family at the Coliseum on Tuesday night -- his parents, three siblings, his agent Scott Boras, and even his old pitching coach who he's known since the age of nine.

"When they call my name, (I'll) be ready to pitch," Puk said. "Probably juiced up a lot. I'll try to stay relaxed and just get the job done."

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