A's agree to terms with 1st-rounder Puk

A's agree to terms with 1st-rounder Puk

OAKLAND -- First impressions go a long way, and after seeing A.J. Puk throw his first bullpen session as a member of the A's organization, manager Bob Melvin was reminded of a former pitcher with experience in the Bay Area.

"I was kind of joking with [A's pitching coach Curt Young] saying we should get Dave Righetti over here," Melvin said, "because that slider looks like Dave Righetti's slider, which was one of the better sliders in baseball. It's just kind of one of those disappearing sliders."

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Oakland can continue to develop that slider after officially inking Puk, the No. 6 overall pick in the Draft, to a $4,069,200 deal Thursday, according to MLB Pipeline's Jim Callis. Puk met with the A's front office over lunch Thursday before touring the Coliseum and throwing a bullpen session.

The 6-foot-7 lefty will report to Arizona Friday before heading to Oakland's Class A Short Season affiliate in Vermont.

"I've been looking forward to this for a while," said Puk, who donned a green A's jersey while meeting with the media Thursday afternoon. "I'm happy to get it done with and excited to get my dream started."

Puk spent three seasons at Florida, going 2-3 with a 3.05 ERA in 17 games (16 starts) in his junior season while holding opponents to a .191 batting average and striking out 102 batters in 73 2/3 innings. His production hasn't always been as consistent as his stuff -- he throws a mid-90s fastball in addition to a plus slider -- and he even received attention as a possible No. 1 overall pick ahead of this year's Draft.

Instead, Puk is now atop a triumvirate of A's draft picks he's familiar with.

Oakland drafted Puk's college teammate and friend Logan Shore, who remains unsigned, with the No. 47 pick in the Draft. Daulton Jefferies (No. 37 overall) also played with Puk on Team USA, and sent the lefty a congratulatory text on Draft night.

"I texted him back and said I hope the A's pick you up too," Puk said. "That was pretty exciting."

Puk also played two seasons at Florida with Oakland's 2015 first-round pick Richie Martin, and said he's talked frequently with the shortstop in recent weeks. He realized a mini-Florida reunion could be a possibility on Draft night after Shore's agent said the A's were interested in the lefty.

"Before the draft, he was like "If the A's pick you I'll have a good chance to be on the A's too," Puk said. "It was crazy because he said 'Oh yeah, here it comes.' When pick No. 47 came around he got picked and it was really exciting."

Puk's slider, which impressed Melvin Thursday, is something he only learned upon arriving at Florida. He said he ditched his curveball after leaving Washington High School in Iowa -- where he also played basketball and was a quarterback -- and now focuses primarily on the slider and a changeup to accompany his fastball.

As the A's saw Thursday, Puk's potential is evident immediately.

"It's nice to be able to actually see him first-hand," Melvin said. "We've seen him on TV and so forth. The ball comes out his hand really nice. It's an easy motion. He throws really hard. … It's exciting to see him on the mound for the first time."

Mark Chiarelli is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.