Cedar Rapids native A.J. Puk signs with Oakland Athletics

Receives over $4-million signing bonus

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CEDAR RAPIDS — A.J. Puk officially is a professional baseball player.

The Cedar Rapids Washington grad signed a contract Thursday afternoon with the Oakland Athletics, who took him with the sixth-overall pick in the 2016 Major League Baseball Draft two weeks ago.

Puk will receive a signing bonus of $4,096,200, according to reports, which was the assigned value of the pick by MLB. The former University of Florida pitcher threw a bullpen at Oakland’s O.co Coliseum, will leave Friday for the Athletics’ minor-league complex in Arizona and eventually will be assigned to their Short-Season-A affiliate in Vermont.

“I’m really excited,” Puk told local media during an on-field press conference Thursday. “I’ve been looking forward to this for awhile. I’m happy to get it done with, so I can get my dream started.”

The 6-foot-7 left-handed Puk was considered a possible first-overall draft pick but slid to Oakland. He had a 3.05 earned run average this season as a junior for Florida, striking out 101 in 73 2/3 innings.

He is considered to have front-of-the-rotation stuff (mid to-high-90s fastball and wipeout slider) but was inconsistent this season for the Gators and only pitched to one batter in relief for the team in its short College World Series appearance.

“It was good, felt really good,” Puk said of his Thursday bullpen. “It’s been a little bit since I’ve been on the mound ... it felt good to be out there.”

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