Why A's prospect A.J. Puk has settled in over his last few outings

Ben Ross

A.J. Puk's major league career got off to a little bit of a slow start, but that sure didn't last long.

After allowing a run on a hit and two walks in his first two appearances, the A's No. 2 prospect has surrendered just one more earned run in his last seven innings, with seven strikeouts.

Most recently, Puk tossed two perfect innings in Texas on Friday night. The 6-foot-7 left-hander has maintained an ERA of 2.45 through his first seven outings.

"He looks like he's starting to settle in a little bit," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "I think (being) able to throw all of his pitches now is something that's going to be key for him. ... Each and every time out there, he looks like he settles in that much easier and looks that much more calm."

As Melvin noted, Puk has only recently been able to throw all four of his pitches. Coming off Tommy John surgery, the 24-year-old was initially limited to his fastball and slider because his changeup caused him discomfort. Now he's throwing both his changeup and curveball again, and it's made a huge difference.

"When you go out there with a limited arsenal and you get to the big leagues and you're counted on and now you don't have all of your weapons, it's hard," Melvin said. "We've kind of worked through this to where he can throw all of his pitches now and it's certainly showed up. His strikeouts -- he can make guys look bad."

It's not like Puk can't get by with just his fastball and slider -- each pitch is devastating on both left and right-handed hitters. His four-seam fastball clocks in close to 100 mph and his slider can make even the best hitters look foolish. But now, Puk can keep hitters honest with his changeup, which has made his fastball even more effective.

Beginning next year, Puk figures to slot into the A's starting rotation, but since he is on an innings limit this season following surgery, he will continue to work in relief. He has already pitched multiple innings on three occasions, and on Thursday and Friday, he pitched on back-to-back days for the first time since getting called up.

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"Originally, if he pitched two innings, he would need two days off," Melvin explained. "Now, we're not necessarily going to do that. So we're starting to make some progress with him in how we can use him, and I think the more he's out there, the more comfortable he gets."

Why A's prospect A.J. Puk has settled in over his last few outings originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area