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Strikeout machine Puk set for Futures Game

Athletics' top pitching prospect faces big test today
MLB.com @JaneMLB

OAKLAND -- Oakland's top pitching prospect was a month removed from college at this time last year. Now A.J. Puk is readying for a different kind of test.

The left-hander, who is Oakland's No. 2 overall prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, is prepping to go to battle with the best of the best among the Minor League ranks, after being named as the A's lone representative in today's SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.

OAKLAND -- Oakland's top pitching prospect was a month removed from college at this time last year. Now A.J. Puk is readying for a different kind of test.

The left-hander, who is Oakland's No. 2 overall prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, is prepping to go to battle with the best of the best among the Minor League ranks, after being named as the A's lone representative in today's SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.

The Futures Game is set for today at Marlins Park at 1 p.m. PT and will be broadcast live on MLB Network and streamed on MLB.com.

:: 2017 Futures Game coverage ::

Puk, who will suit up for the U.S. Team, was taken sixth overall by the A's in the 2016 Draft out of the University of Florida. Already, he's ascended to the Double-A level, where he's made three starts with Midland following his June promotion.

"One year ago, he was basically graduating," A's Minor League pitching coordinator Gil Patterson said, "and he's in Double-A and going to the Futures Game, and it's because he strikes out like 15 per nine so far in his career."

Puk, who stands 6-foot-7, is a strikeout machine, having whiffed 110 batters in 74 1/3 innings this season. Last year, he fanned 40 in 32 2/3 innings to begin his career.

The young southpaw completed seven innings in his first Double-A outing but was pulled from his next after just one-third of an inning with four runs, three hits and three walks allowed, prompting Patterson to message him.

"I sent him a text and said, 'Are you kidding me?' and he kind of LOL'd me back," Patterson recalled.

The way in which young players respond to adversity is telling, and Puk flashed moxie the next time he returned to the mound July 2; he walked three batters in the first inning, but escaped unscored upon, before rattling off four more scoreless innings. He yielded two runs in the sixth to cap his night.

"That was a nice job of him coming back and showing some fight," Patterson said.

Patterson continues to encourage Puk to utilize his changeup, which garners a tremendous amount of swings-and-misses, to complement his power fastball. Puk had both on display while pitching as a non-roster invitee with the big league club in Spring Training, where he played with many pieces of a young core that has potential to bring a winning team back to Oakland in the future.

"He's still got a ways to go," Patterson said. "He's not a finished product, but his growth from the mental and even the physical side, he was really receptive to some of the mechanical changes we did with him. He's growing and that's a great sign to see, and let's just hope it continues, and I certainly think it will."

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.

Oakland Athletics