Three Minor-league Pitchers Can Help A's Regardless of Trade Deadline Moves

OAKLAND -- While the A's are still trying to add pitching help before Wednesday's Trade Deadline, they should have some reinforcements coming from their own minor-league system.

Of course, Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton are two names that come to mind, with both already having major league experience. Manaea, 27, is expected to make two more rehab starts for Triple-A Las Vegas, putting the left-hander on track to return to Oakland within the next couple of weeks.

Cotton, 27, has made four rehab appearances in relief for Las Vegas and could join the A's bullpen sometime in August. But there are three more minor-league pitchers who could have a huge impact in August, September, and possibly October.

A.J. Puk

The A's No. 2 prospect has looked phenomenal in two relief appearances for Las Vegas, tossing three scoreless innings with three strikeouts and just one baserunner allowed. The 6-foot-7 left-hander has been throwing his fastball in the high-90s, which pairs incredibly well with his devastating slider.

Puk, 24, underwent Tommy John surgery last April and has not suffered any setbacks. If that continues, along with his stellar performance, he could become a primary late-inning option in the A's bullpen.

Puk will eventually be a top starter for Oakland, but since he's on an innings limit this year, a relief role makes more sense. He and the newly-acquired Jake Diekman will give A's manager Bob Melvin two dominant, hard-throwing southpaws to mix with right-handers Liam Hendriks, Yusmeiro Petit, Blake Treinen, and Lou Trivino.

J.B. Wendelken

Wendelken has already proven himself at the big league level, allowing just one run in 16 2/3 innings last season as a rookie. He fell into a bit of a sophomore slump this year, but could still give the A's another hard-throwing right-hander in the bullpen.

Wendelken, 26, has spent about half of this season in Triple-A, going 4-1 with a 6.04 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings. In 21 appearances with the A's, he is 1-1 with a 4.56 ERA and 28 punchouts in 25 2/3 innings.

Wendelken has looked sharp in his last nine outings for Las Vegas. In 11 1/3 innings, he has an ERA of 3.18, which is terrific in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. He has also notched 13 strikeouts against four walks. At the very least, Wendelken will be back with the A's as a September call-up.

Jesús Luzardo

Oakland's top prospect is scheduled to throw two simulated innings on Thursday in Arizona. Luzardo looked great in five minor-league appearances this year, before suffering a left lat strain early this month in Las Vegas. The left-hander was originally recovering from a strained left rotator cuff, sustained late in spring training.

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Luzardo, 21, certainly appears MLB-ready from a talent and composure standpoint. The question will be his health. If his simulated innings go well, the A's figure to stretch him out in the minors again. Ideally, Luzardo could be a factor in Oakland's starting rotation beginning in September.

If Luzardo does stay on track, he would help form a formidable top three in the A's rotation, along with Manaea and Mike Fiers.

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