21-year-old, 6'4'', 180lb Spring, Texas-born lefty Matt Purke was just 18 and coming off a (4-2) senior year at Klein High School in 2009 in which he had given up just seven walks (1.33 BB/9) and eight earned runs (1.18 ERA) while striking out 91 batters (17.30 K/9) in 47.1 IP for the Bearkats when the Texas Rangers selected him 14th overall in the '09 Draft, but the organization failed to agree on a deal with its first round pick that summer. The Rangers, whose finances were overseen by MLB, were said to have offered $4M late in the negotiatons according to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, who wrote then that sources said Purke and his agent started asking for $6M (and were rumored to have agreed on that dollar amount before the draft), but were willing to accept $4.7M in the end. No deal.
Purke went to TCU instead, which seemed like a good decision after his 2010 season with the Horned Frogs ended with the 19-year-old left-hander (16-0) with 142 K's (10.99 K/9) and 34 BB (2.63 BB/9) in 20 games, 18 starts and 116.1 IP. Struggles with shoulder bursitis in his sophomore year, during which he was (5-1) with a 1.71 ERA in 11 starts and 52.2 IP, holding opponents to a .187 BAA while collecting 61 K's (10.42 K/9) and allowing 20 walks (3.42 BB/9), led to Purke falling to the Washington Nationals in the 3rd Round of the next draft he was eligible for in 2011. The Nationals signed him to a 4-year/$4.15M dollar major league deal with D.C. GM Mike Rizzo describing Purke to ESPN980's Thom Loverro last summer as a, "a power pitcher that has good command of his four pitches," who has, "... command, poise and stuff." The Nationals, Rizzo said, thought of Purke as, "... a quick-to-the-big-leagues college-type of pitcher."
After a trip to the Arizona Fall League, where Purke was hit hard early before ending on a high note in a series of relief appearances, the left-hander is in Viera, Florida with the major league team for now because of the major league deal he signed and Nats' skipper Davey Johnson gave Purke the starting assignment in this afternoon's exhibition game against the Georgetown Hoyas. The 21-year-old (according to the line provided by the WaPost's Adam Kilgore @AdamKilgoreWP) threw 3.0 scoreless against his age-appropriate opponents, striking out three batters and throwing 32 pitches total, 23 for strikes with a fastball that according to NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) ranged from 91-93mph this afternoon.
Purke told MLB.com's Bill Ladson, as quoted tonight in an article entitled, "Nats' young stars shine in exhibition", that he was happy to get back on the mound. "'It was really good to be out there,' Purke said, 'My biggest thing was to take advantage of every opportunity out there, and I did my best.'" Purke earned the exhibition W when the run scored by the Nationals in the first on a bases loaded HBP held up in the Nats' 3-0 win over the Hoyas. Purke wasn't the only 2011 Draft pick in action. 1st Round pick Anthony Rendon went 0 for 3 with a K. 2010 no.1 overall pick Bryce Harper walked in his first at bat of the Spring, tried to bunt his way on the second time up and flew out in AB no.3. Nats' outfield prospect Eury Perez scored on a Sandy Leon sac fly, and infielder Zach Walters (acquired from the D-Backs for Jason Marquis last summer) singled in run no.3, 3-0 final. BOX SCORE.
On Friday afternoon it was a quick-to-the-majors-type prospect on the hill for the Nationals, Saturday afternoon, when the Nats take on the Astros in the Grapefruit League opener, it will be a 28-year-old on the mound when 9-year-veteran Edwin Jackson throws for the first time in a Nationals uniform after signing a 1-year/$11M dollar deal late this winter. The Nationals already announced the lineup:
- Ian Desmond - SS
- Danny Espinosa - 2B
- Rick Ankiel - CF
- Chad Tracy - 1B
- Jason Michaels - DH
- Mark Teahen - 3B
- Bryce Harper - RF
- Roger Bernadina - LF
- Jesus Flores - C
- Edwin Jackson - SP