The Athletics’ A.J. Puk’s injury woes continued this week when the club placed the left-hander on the IL to start the season because of shoulder inflammation. While Puk is on track to begin throwing again, his 2020 debut still appears to be pretty far off, manager Bob Melvin revealed (via Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle).
“It’s going to be at least a couple of weeks of just playing catch — and not too far out,” Melvin said. “We’re a ways off before we have an update on him.”
Puk’s a former first-round pick (No. 6 in 2016) who has remained a standout prospect as he has climbed up the minor league ranks. He held his own in his major league debut in 2019 with 11 1/3 innings of 10-hit, four-run ball with 13 strikeouts against five walks. But Oakland’s goal isn’t for Puk to emerge as a key reliever – rather, the team’s hoping he will emerge as a front-line starter. Unfortunately, arm problems have been a regular occurrence for Puk, who underwent Tommy John surgery in April 2018 and has dealt with shoulder issues during the past several months. He still hasn’t made a major league start as a result.
Injuries in its pitching staff are nothing new for Oakland, which overcame a litany of health troubles from 2018-19 en route to back-to-back 97-win seasons and playoff berths. The A’s once again look like serious contenders as this season gets underway, but they’ve begun with a shorthanded rotation because of the absences of Puk and fellow star lefty prospect Jesus Luzardo. They opened the campaign with a rotation consisting of Frankie Montas, Sean Manaea, Mike Fiers, Chris Bassitt and Daniel Mengden.