Notes: Puk's role; A's monitor wildfires

August 22nd, 2020

The void left in the A’s bullpen following Burch Smith’s potential season-ending injury could soon be filled by one of the organization’s most electric arms.

continues to inch closer to making his 2020 debut as he progresses in his rehab from a left shoulder strain down at the A’s alternate training site in San Jose. The left-hander threw his third bullpen session since the injury on Friday, increasing his pitch count to 45.

The next step for Puk, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the A's No. 3 prospect and the No. 64 prospect overall, will be to throw to hitters in San Jose. That session will likely come on Monday. If all goes well, Puk could soon return to Oakland in a bullpen role similar to Smith’s, which saw him pitch multi-inning appearances as a bridge to the late-inning relievers.

“I think the potential is there for that if we can get him up to three innings,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Puk before Friday's game against the Angels. “Our starters are going a little bit longer now. In theory, you don’t need four, five or six from him. Even two innings would be considered that role. My guess is we’ll get him up to at least two innings before he’s here.”

Though Puk is a starter by trade, he performed well for the A’s in the bullpen last season, posting a 3.18 ERA in 10 relief appearances and striking out 13 batters over 11 1/3 innings. He has not made a start in the big leagues.

A’s coach affected by Bay Area wildfires
It’s hard for the A’s not to be thinking about the devastation that has been caused around the Bay Area over the past few days as wildfires spread throughout neighboring cities. Even the backdrop at the Coliseum has looked eerie, with the usual sunny Oakland skies covered by smoke from the fires.

A’s first-base coach Mike Aldrete, who owns a house near one of the affected areas near Monterey, was away from the club for the second day in a row on Friday. His home is on the watch list for possible emergency evacuation.

“It’s close enough to where we all have our fingers crossed for him,” Melvin said. “I think the neighborhood next to him may have been evacuated and they’re on a watch. We have our fingers crossed for him. This whole thing is so sad and puts things into perspective when you’re out on a baseball field.”

The A's continue to monitor the air quality and its potential impact on games for this three-game series against the Angels that began on Friday night.