Matt Purke had surgery in the fall of 2012 to remove bursa sacs and clean up scar tissue in his left shoulder. The injury which led to him dropping from the 1st Round in 2009 when Texas selected him with the 14th overall pick to the 3rd Round in 2011 where the Washington Nationals drafted him 96th, could have been a devastating blow for a pitcher who couldn't agree on a deal with the Rangers and instead chose to attend college at Texas Christian University before reentering the draft.
Luckily for Purke, the Nationals were in "attack the draft" mode that June when they selected him, so the 6'4'' left-hander got a 4-year/$4.15M major league deal. Even after surgery, which found no damage to the rotator cuff or labrum in his shoulder, the Nationals have high hopes for the hard-throwing southpaw as Nats' GM Mike Rizzo explained in a July interview.
"Matt Purke is one of our real bright guys that we have coming in the future," the Nationals' general manager told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier this summer. "His velocity is creeping back up there. We're told by our rehab people that we're not going to see the true stuff of Matt Purke, pre-injury stuff, until next spring training. Because this was a little bit different. It was a shoulder scope. It wasn't the Tommy John ligament and that type of thing. So, Matt's progressing nicely. His velocity is up to 94 [mph], he touched 95 the other night. But the last thing that comes in these guys' rehab, don't forget, is consistency and command of their stuff and that's been inconsistent for Matt thus far this year."
"But, progressing nicely," Rizzo added. "Hopefully he finishes the season strong. We'd like to get him to -- he's at the High-A level right now, we'd like for him to be introduced to the Double-A level before this season's over this year."
Purke's season ended at High-A. After starting at Low-A Hagerstown, the 23-year-old starter moved up to Potomac in the Carolina League, where he made 12 starts, going (5-3) with a 4.43 ERA, 3.58 FIP, 18 walks (2.66 BB/9) and 41 Ks (6.05 K/9) in 61 IP in which he surrendered three home runs (0.44 HR/9). Once the minor league season ended he was picked to pitch in the Arizona Fall League for the second time.
The lefty threw 7 1/3 innings in the AFL in 2011. He made his first start of the 2013 season tonight in Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Arizona. Purke held the Salt River Rafters to one unearned run on two hits, walking one and striking out two in three innings in which he threw 46 pitches, 30 for strikes while inducing six ground ball outs from the 13 batters he faced.
Fellow Nats' prospects Brian Goodwin and Matt Skole started tonight too, with Goodwin 1 for 5 with a run scored and two RBIs and Skole 0 for 4 with a walk, a K and a run scored. Purke got the win (1-0) in what ended up an 8-1 game.
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