STOCKTON, Calif. – While the A's were busy beating the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night, the eyes of the organization were closely fixed on Stockton.
Multiple front office members, including general manager David Forst, were on hand to watch the franchise's top two prospects -- left-handers Jesús Luzardo and A.J. Puk -- make rehab appearances for the Class-A Stockton Ports. And both pitched extremely well.
It was Puk's first game since undergoing Tommy John surgery last April. The 24-year-old got the start and tossed two impressive innings, striking out four and walking one.
The only hit Puk allowed was a solo home run to Giants prospect Heliot Ramos. Aside from that, he was dominant, sitting at 98-99 mph with his fastball and mixing in his other pitches effectively.
Puk still pumping high 90s for his 3rd strikeout pic.twitter.com/HVZFbf4NOZ— Ben Ross (@BenRossTweets) June 12, 2019
"I felt great," Puk said after the game. "First game back, I was happy to throw all of my pitches. Something to build on moving forward."
Luzardo was just as impressive in his first game since being shut down with a shoulder strain in late March. The 21-year-old threw three scoreless innings, allowing just two singles. He also struck out two, pumping his fastball at 96-98 mph.
Jesús Luzardo: 3 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 0 BB, 2 K pic.twitter.com/Mj5R9nae6C— Ben Ross (@BenRossTweets) June 12, 2019
"I was really happy just to be out there with no pain," Luzardo said. "I thought all of my pitches were working pretty well, so I can't complain. I thought I executed how I wanted to and being pain-free was my main thing."
Puk and Luzardo both threw 33 pitches and showed impressive command. Puk recorded 22 strikes and 11 balls. while Luzardo tallied 24 strikes and nine balls.
"It felt good," Puk said. "All the work that you put in for the whole rehab, you come out feeling great. I was really happy about it."
Luzardo was happy with his fastball velocity and command, but another pitch stuck out to him even more.
"I would say my breaking ball was probably the best-feeling pitch I had today," he said. "But all three (fastball, slider, changeup) were working pretty well and I was happy with the result."
Luzardo and Puk embraced the experience of pitching back-to-back. Not only are they Oakland's top two prospects, but they have also become close friends off the field.
Said Puk: "We kind of talked about that for a little bit, like, 'Who's gonna start? Who's gonna start?' We kind of gave each other some crap about that. But it was cool, definitely."
Luzardo laughed when it was suggested that Puk had bragging rights from earning the start.
"It's a friendly little competition, but it was funny," he said. "I enjoy it."
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Both left-handers will remain with Stockton for at least one more rehab appearance. From there, both hope to eventually pitch for the A's sometime this season.
Based on their performances Tuesday night, that seems like a strong possibility.