Noah Berger interviews Marlins left-hander A.J. Puk. Puk takes us through his baseball journey, including the trade that brought him to Miami last offseason and the process of becoming the club’s primary closer this season.
Subscribe to the Fish On First YouTube channel to watch video versions of every What a Relief episode.
Right before the start of Spring Training, the Marlins acquired Puk from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for outfielder JJ Bleday. The A’s were going to give the former first-round draft pick another opportunity to earn a spot in their starting rotation, but Puk recognized that a move to Miami would mean relief work.
“It would’ve been cool to start again,” Puk says, “but at the same time, I enjoy coming out of the bullpen and over the years, just learning my mentality for becoming a bullpen pitcher.”
In 2023, Puk has been more effective than ever. He enters Tuesday with a career-best 3.09 ERA, 2.79 FIP and 1.11 WHIP. The 28-year-old leads the Marlins with 11 saves converted. Modifying his traditional slider into a sweeper, he’s avoiding the barrel of his opponents and inducing far more weak contact.
The Marlins have even created a special entrance for Puk whenever he pitches at LoanDepot Park:
Our Fish On First podcast programming includes The Offishial Show, Fish Unfiltered, Fishology, State of the Fish, Swimming Upstream and What a Relief. All new episodes are posted to FishOnFirst.com/podcasts. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Podbean, Megaphone or wherever you normally get your pods from.
Photo courtesy of Miami Marlins