MESA, Ariz. (AP) — A.J. Puk is looking and feeling strong after pitching three innings in his first two spring training starts for the Oakland Athletics.
Two years removed from Tommy John surgery, Puk threw into the mid-90-mph range during a two-inning, 23-pitch scoreless outing against Colorado in a 5-2 win Thursday. The lanky left-handed allowed two hits and struck out leadoff man David Dahl on three fastballs.
“It’s still all about just getting out there and just get the cobwebs off,” said Puk, who pitched a scoreless inning against the Chicago Cubs last weekend.
Puk faced a starting lineup stocked with regulars, including Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon and Ian Desmond.
“They brought a lot of their big boys over here. So it’s good to see. You want him to have that kind of look,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “Especially early in the spring. Really good again with all his pitches.”
The former first round pick pitched 10 straight scoreless innings in spring training two years ago before arm discomfort in what was his last outing led to season-ending Tommy John surgery.
Puk returned to game action in the minor leagues last June and returned to the A’s in August. He pitched 11 1/3 innings in 10 relief appearances with 13 strikeouts, five walks and a 3.18 ERA. He is projected to be in the starting rotation along with another young lefty pitching prospect, Jesús Luzardo.
“Just happy I’m feeling good, and really excited,” Puk said. “Still just getting my mechanics synched up. I’m really happy to be in my starter’s routine and I’d like to just keep building off that and building a program I like.”
Puk said knowing and seeing other pitchers come back from the surgery and pitch well helped him get through the rehab process. Melvin hopes Puk can throw out 50 pitches in his next outing.
“As soon as you get drafted, you’re thinking about getting up here and just contributing to the team,” Puk said. “The situation where we are now is great. We’ve got a great team here. Just happy to be a part of it.”
NOTES: Rockies LHP Kyle Freeland left Thursday’s game with back tightness after two innings and walking to the mound for a third. … Arenado hit his first home run of spring training.
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