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Buddy system: Puk, Reed reunite with A's

Former Gators-turned-roomates playing for same team again
Buddy Reed and A.J. Puk spent three years together at the University of Florida. (John Moore, Jerry Kime)
March 3, 2020

MESA, Arizona -- When Buddy Reed found out he'd been traded to the A's in December, he immediately called three people. The first, his father, Michael. Secondly, his agent. And then his roommate ... so he could tell him that they were going to be teammates -- again. The latter was

MESA, Arizona -- When Buddy Reed found out he'd been traded to the A's in December, he immediately called three people. The first, his father, Michael. Secondly, his agent. And then his roommate ... so he could tell him that they were going to be teammates -- again. 
The latter was A.J. Puk, Oakland's third-ranked prospect and Reed's former college teammate at the University of Florida. The two joined forces as freshmen in 2014, spending the next three years together before electing to forego their senior season in favor of entering the 2016 Draft. Now they've reunited as two of the A's more intriguing farmhands.

The duo was scooped up quickly in the Draft, with Puk being taken sixth overall by the A's and Reed serving as San Diego's second-round selection. Although they were heading to different organizations, the pair decided to remain roommates in Tampa, Florida, along with a few more of their college teammates.
But the journey came full circle this offseason, after Reed was identified as the Padres' player to be named later in the trade that sent Jurickson Profar to San Diego in return for Austin Allen.
"I kind of wanted to wait," Reed said, noting that Puk was working out at the time that Reed received the fateful news. But after a few moments of deliberation, Reed reconsidered and picked up the phone. Yells and screams ensued. 
"I saw there was a player to be named later, but I was hoping it wasn't him because I was hoping he would get picked up in the Rule 5 Draft," recalled Puk,'s No. 60 overall prospect. After the call though, he was "really fired up."
That's for obvious reasons. Their respective journeys through professional baseball may have differed vastly, but a common thread has remained the same -- Puk and Reed's ability to rely on each other. They've both battled through their fair share of adversity, making that support system all the more important. Reed was one of Puk's biggest supporters when the southpaw underwent Tommy John surgery in April 2018, missing a full year and the first three months of the next one. He was also one of Puk's biggest fans near the end of the 2019 season, when Puk battled back and debuted in the heart of Oakland's playoff chase, just 17 months after the procedure. 
"Watching him go through all the levels again and then getting to the big leagues was really cool," Reed said. "He puts in so much work and he's dedicated so much of his time to this game. Whenever the A's played (last season), I tried to watch just to see if he would come in and pitch."
Puk breezed through every level before making his Major League debut in mid-August, when he was used predominately out of the bullpen. The lefty worked 11 1/3 frames in relief, posting a 2-0 record and a 3.18 ERA with 13 strikeouts and five walks. 
And while the 24-year-old is eager to build on that first impression -- this time as a starter -- he couldn't be more excited for Reed's opportunity with a new organization. Although Reed shined in the Padres system, a crowded crop of talented prospects meant smaller opportunities for the outfielder. Both are excited for a chance for Reed to shine on a new circuit -- and the fact that it's a shared circuit makes it even better. 
"I'm waiting on his moment and it's coming," Puk said. "I say it all the time, just seeing how far he's come in baseball. ... Everyone wants the results right away. But I've seen how raw he was in college and just how much work he's put in to get where he's at."
The pair already have been having fun this spring. Both are in big league camp, with Puk on the 40-man roster and Reed as a non-roster invitee. Now ranked as Oakland's No. 25 prospect, Reed knows he has much to prove. Puk, on the other hand, is all but a lock to begin the season in the A's rotation, provided he stays healthy and continues to showcase the premium fastball and slider combination that he dazzled with in the Majors last year.
Reed doesn't think that will be a problem. "(Puk's) really competitive," he said. "His competitive nature is obviously going to take him a really long way. He wants to play for a really long time."
But both of them are more inclined to focus on daily spring battles, instead of looking long-term, while cheering each other on. Reed has even enveloped some of Puk's approach, remarking on how the hurler's determination to get back on the mound helped spark a new mind-set of his own. 
"Coming off Tommy John ... no one ever wants to get injured," Reed said. "Something clicked in his head where there was no way he wasn't going to get to the Major Leagues. I felt that.
"I asked him all the time, 'What was it like to get that call?' or 'What is it like pitching in front of thousands of people?' Hearing all of that (for me), was like, 'Wow, I'm going to do everything I can in my power to get to the big leagues. I would definitely say that seeing him go through it and where he's at now gives me a lot of hope."
Despite Reed's rather quiet 2019 campaign in the Texas League, Puk is just as confident that his buddy will be enjoying similar success soon. Reed compiled a .228/.310/.388 slash line in 121 games for Double-A Amarillo, but slugged a career-high 14 home runs. The switch-hitter's strikeout rate soared in two seasons at the Double-A level, and the A's will be looking to remedy that. Reed's athleticism and speed are his most prized traits -- the 24-year-old swiped 51 bags in 2018 and committed just two errors last season.

"He's the best athlete I've ever been around," Puk said. "He's one of the most fun players. I've always said one of my favorite things to do is watch him hit a triple and watch him run."
He added that his biggest takeaway from Reed has been his infectious energy. 
"He's going to bring that energy every day," he said. "He's not a low energy guy. It's great to be around those type of people. ... I'm waiting on his moment, and it's coming."
Ultimately, Reed is excited about the change of scenery, and the opportunity to learn from a new organization and instructors. He's also excited to be cheering on one of his closest friends as they continue to chase the same dreams they've had since their college days. 
"It's really surreal," Reed said. "He's one of my best friends and he's doing it on the biggest stage -- and that's all we were talking about in college."

Katie Woo is a contributor to Follow her on Twitter @katiejwoo.