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AJ Puk’s First MLB Start Went…Pretty Terrible

In case you weren't aware as a Marlins fan, our pitching rotation to start the 2024 season is decimated. Sandy Alcantara is out for the year after getting Tommy John surgery, Eury Perez has a broken fingernail and elbow inflammation, Edward Cabrera and Braxton Garrett are dealing with shoulder injuries, and the only pitchers in our current rotation that'll be long-term starters are Jesus Luzardo and Max Meyer (probably).

Enter AJ Puk.

After winning the closing pitcher role last year (and struggled at times), AJ saw himself in a bigger role than just a one--maybe two--inning pitcher. The 6'7" southpaw took advantage of a hurt pitching rotation and excelled during Spring Training as a starter. Mind you, he has never started an MLB game in his career. Skip Schumaker rewarded AJ towards the end of Spring Training by naming him the Game 2 starter of the inaugural series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Here is how AJ Puk's first game as a starting pitcher went:

1st Inning

AJ started the game better than any casual fan thought he would--by striking out his first hitter. Not an easy task because Connor Joe is a solid lead-off hitter, but he got Joe swinging and missing on a 1-2 slider.

Despite walking Ke'Bryan Hayes, he got McCutchen to pop-out and end the first. Not bad whatsoever for the virgin starter.

2nd Inning

Puk started the 2nd inning by walking his first two hitters, Edward Olivares and Henry Davis, which prompted an early mound visit from Mel Stottlemyre. Bryan De La Cruz mismanaged a flare to left and the bases were loaded with no outs.

How did he manage the early adversity?

He walked the next better, misfiring on his fastballs and sliders. Things looked pretty bad until a heads-up play by Bryan De La Cruz netted a double-play on a sacrifice fly (Oneil Cruz got caught tagging for third). In the end, 2 earned runs and he finished the second inning nearing 50 pitches already. Rough, but not necessarily terrible.

3rd Inning

Puk's location issues continued into the 3rd. He walked his first batter (matching the amount of hitters he walked ALL of Spring--4). Ke'Bryan Hayes then ripped a double to score Reynolds from 1st. Peter Bendix, the Marlins President of Operations who was invited to the commentators booth, couldn't help but also notice AJ's struggles in the the 3rd. Funny enough, the conversation switched to there being any updates on the injured pitchers (see below). A wild pitch and another walk prompted bullpen activity AND boos from the crowd. A run was already scored, runners were on 1st and 3rd, and there were no outs.

How did AJ manage another tough situation?

Unfortunately for Puk, his day ended after giving up a hit to the next batter, Olivares, scoring Hayes from third and putting runners on 1st and 2nd. Skip Schumaker brought in Bryan Hoeing, and that was that.


ROUGH. Rough as hell for AJ. This initial start will forsure not convince fans, or management for that matter, that he is a capable option as a starter (or back-up starter) moving forward. Declan Cronin lasted longer on Opening Day, and he's younger than me. For April though, he will likely be starting until either of the 3 injured starters (Eury, Garrett, Cabrera) come back from their injuries. Peter Bendix gave a few updates on said pitchers, detailing that all 3 are likely to come back by the end of April--Eury has a bullpen session scheduled this week.

AJ Puk had a horrid first start, so if you're already throwing in the towel on the big man then who should replace him? Bryan Hoeing? Tanner Scott? Sixto Sanchez? Declan Cronin? Schumaker and Stottlemyre have a tough task ahead.


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