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Fowler, Puk enjoy successful spring outings

MLB.com @JaneMLB

MESA, Ariz. -- A's center fielder Dustin Fowler was back in a game on Sunday, and only when he fouled a ball off his surgically-repaired right knee did he even think about it.

"Just a quick reminder that it's still there," Fowler said, smiling. "Other than that, I didn't feel anything. It was normal. I was able to have enough nerves to where I wasn't thinking about anything. I was just able to play baseball."

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MESA, Ariz. -- A's center fielder Dustin Fowler was back in a game on Sunday, and only when he fouled a ball off his surgically-repaired right knee did he even think about it.

"Just a quick reminder that it's still there," Fowler said, smiling. "Other than that, I didn't feel anything. It was normal. I was able to have enough nerves to where I wasn't thinking about anything. I was just able to play baseball."

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Fowler had been missing from game action since June 29, when he sustained an open rupture of the patella tendon during the first inning of his Major League debut with the Yankees -- robbed of a single plate appearance.

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On Sunday, he got three of them in a Cactus League tie with the Royals, reaching base twice from the leadoff spot while donning the green and gold. Fowler quickly grounded out in his first at-bat, but he drew a walk in his next and poked a single through the right side an inning later.

"He made the comment, it was nice playing with you guys for the first time in a while," manager Bob Melvin said. "He was excited about playing today, made a really good impression. You watch him in center field, he's moving with every swing. He seems really graceful in the outfield. Got a hit, which I know made him feel good too."

Fowler's spring schedule will be altered to match his circumstance: he'll have two days off in between games for now, allowing proper time for his knee to recover.

"I want to do as much as I can in the games I'm able to play," Fowler said. "I was thankful I got some balls in the outfield, run on the bases, kind of do a little bit of everything, so it felt good.

"I'm glad I finally got a game in me so I can stop anticipating."

Puk is perfect
A's left-hander A.J. Puk drew the start on Sunday, and the 22-year-old made good on the opportunity.

Puk breezed through two hitless innings against the Royals, inducing four ground-ball outs with help from a two-seam fastball he added to his repertoire last year. He also struck out a batter, needing just 20 pitches to complete his day's work.

Video: Top Prospects: A.J. Puk, LHP, Athletics

"Great command, great poise, throwing strikes, easy innings," Melvin said. "I told [pitching coach Scott Emerson], 'Why are you taking him out?' He was only going to pitch two regardless, so off to a really good start. What we saw last year and an even better mix of pitches."

The 22-year-old Puk, selected by the A's in the first round in the 2016 Draft, is in his second big league camp and prepping to begin the season at Triple-A Nashville. At this time last year, he was gearing up for a stint with Class A Advanced Stockton and almost exclusively relied on his fastball and slider.

Now, Puk has a full complement of pitches pocketed in his 6-foot-7 frame, and he was commanding all of them Sunday.

"I was happy with how I was able to throw my fastball where I wanted to throw it," Puk said.

Of the two-seamer, Melvin said, "It's running good, it's down in the zone, it's going to make the four-seamer even better, and with that mix of pitches he's going to be tough to think along with. But the most impressive thing for me is the poise he has on the mound and the ability to throw strikes with any of his pitches."

On the mend
A day after Renato Nunez was removed from game action with a left hamstring strain, Melvin deemed him day to day, noting, "It's going to be at least a week, and my guess is it might be more."

It's unfortunate timing for Nunez, who is out of options and seeking a bench spot on the club's Opening Day roster. But it means more playing time for infield prospect Sheldon Neuse, who will share the position with utility man Chad Pinder in the meantime.

Regular Matt Chapman, who received a cortisone shot in his sore right hand on Thursday, has yet to resume throwing or swinging, but he's been taking ground balls and "he's still driving everybody absolutely crazy," Melvin said, smiling.

Middle infielder Jorge Mateo (left knee) also remains sidelined and is at least a week away from making his spring debut, Melvin said.

Two pitchers are among the injured: right-hander Daniel Gossett, who was scratched from his scheduled start on Sunday because of back tightness; and reliever Ryan Dull, who could be slowed by shoulder soreness. Gossett threw a bullpen session from flat ground on Sunday and felt good, so he could be cleared for a game this week.

Up next
Listen to an exclusive webcast as right-hander Kendall Graveman, the club's Opening Day starter in 2017, will make his spring debut on Monday at 12:05 p.m. PT against the White Sox in Glendale, Ariz. Right-hander Santiago Casilla is also on the list to pitch for the A's.

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

Oakland Athletics, Dustin Fowler, Kendall Graveman, Renato Nunez, A.J. Puk