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Purke’s slow-and-steady path back

Mar 4, 2013, 8:14 PM EDT

USA Today Sports Images
Matt Purke hasn’t yet faced live hitters this spring.

It’s been 367 days since Matt Purke took the mound at Space Coast Stadium in a Nationals uniform, handed the ball by Davey Johnson to pitch his team’s 2012 exhibition opener against Georgetown University, and offered the entire organization reason to believe his path to the big leagues might be a quick one.

Purke, the highly touted left-hander from TCU drafted in 2011 and lured to professional ball by a four-year, $4.15 million, major-league contract, tossed three scoreless innings that afternoon against the Hoyas. More importantly, his shoulder felt strong after some questions about its stability during his final college season and the Arizona Fall League.

Put that all together, and the Nationals had legitimate visions of a fast track to the majors for a highly advanced pitching prospect.

Flash-forward one year, and Purke’s path to Washington has all but ground to a halt. He appeared in only three games last season for low-Class A Hagerstown, he was roughed up to the tune of a 5.87 ERA and a 1.76 WHIP and his shoulder was barking once again.
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  1. Theophilus T. S. - Mar 4, 2013 at 8:21 PM

    With Purke going to Hagerstown (prob.) again, is that his second option?

  2. Mark Zuckerman - Mar 4, 2013 at 8:24 PM

    Yes, he'll use up his second option this year, leaving him with only one more. (Though he may be one of the rare players that qualifies for a fourth option year. I'm not positive about that, will have to inquire.)

  3. SonnyG10 - Mar 4, 2013 at 8:40 PM

    I wondered how he was doing. Thanks for the update, Mark. Sounds like he may still be a prospect that we can count on for the future. Stay healthy, Matt.

  4. Theophilus T. S. - Mar 4, 2013 at 8:40 PM

    In other words, he has only two years (prob.) to go thru four levels of the minor leagues. And barring major injury will have the H. Rodriguez slot on the major league roster. (Not complaining; just saying.)

  5. sjb - Mar 4, 2013 at 8:40 PM

    Of course, that option situation was the risk teams took in signing draftees to major league contracts. (The preceding sentence is in the past tense because under the current collective bargaining agreement, teams can no longer do that.)

  6. Theophilus T. S. - Mar 4, 2013 at 8:43 PM

    In view of the option situation, and his major league contract, I'm a little surprised they're not pushing him a little harder. On the one hand they treat the surgery (6-7 mos. ago) as almost trivial and the other they restrict him to playing nerf ball.

  7. SCNatsFan - Mar 4, 2013 at 8:43 PM

    My fear is when he is healthy enough to pitch he'll be leaving DC

  8. Tcostant - Mar 4, 2013 at 9:15 PM

    I tell you, if I was signing out of high school or college with the Nationals, I would earmark some of my signing bonus towards second medical options. Do these guys ever get a player problems correct the first time?

  9. UnkyD - Mar 4, 2013 at 9:18 PM

    Don't understand your beef, on this case, Tcostant…

  10. JD - Mar 4, 2013 at 9:46 PM

    Me neither Tcostant. The Nats signed him out of college knowing he was a risk. If he hadn't been a risk he would have been drafted a lot higher and we wouldn't have got him; same with Giolito and even Rendon. Rizzo likes to swing for the fences and he does take some risks but when he connects he normally knocks it out of the park.

  11. IKN8wxU2 - Mar 4, 2013 at 9:50 PM

    Gee, I was thinking that if I was a young and talented pitcher, I'd love to be with the Nats, who seem to be really good at trying to protect young arms. Makes me optimistic Purke won't be in a hurry to go anywhere else.

  12. peric - Mar 4, 2013 at 9:57 PM

    With Purke, Solis, and Giolito the Nats are going to be ultra conservative and I think by doing so they end up with the extra option year. Right now they have plenty of starting pitching. Its good to have some lined up for 2 years or so down the road.

  13. Theophilus T. S. - Mar 4, 2013 at 9:57 PM

    Not to mention they are extremely patient w/ injured players (other side of the same coin).

  14. sjm308 - Mar 4, 2013 at 10:12 PM

    I agree with Peric and think he will get that 4th option year. It's not like we are trying to pull a fast one, the kid was injured.

  15. sjm308 - Mar 4, 2013 at 10:19 PM

    Off topic – I see where the Cubs are putting Garza on the dl and have named the kids from Notre Dame, Samardzija (easy for you to spell!) as their opening day starter. Didn't Edwin Jackson have better numbers? Guess he is not impressing them.

  16. Section 222 - Mar 4, 2013 at 10:50 PM

    Sounds like Purke will get a fourth option year since he was only on the active roster at Hagerstown last year for a short time. Solis and Giolito were signed to minor league contracts. So we don't have to worry about options until they are actually called up to the majors or put on the 40 man roster for some other reason, right?

  17. MicheleS - Mar 4, 2013 at 11:16 PM

    SJM308.. Samardzja (or whatever) is a better pitcher than EJax. He is the #2 behind Garza.. They have Ejax slated as the 3/4 depending on how the kids they have turn out.

  18. natsfan1a - Mar 5, 2013 at 12:02 AM

    So, the Chief walks into a studio, and Meat Hook and [RF] are there, and… Eh, it's too involved. Just go read the Bog post.

  19. natsfan1a - Mar 5, 2013 at 12:08 AM

    On another note, just looked at the MLB Network site, and it appears that 30 Clubs in 30 Days will have the Nats on March 28.

  20. natsfan1a - Mar 5, 2013 at 12:11 AM

    And the Baseball Tonight bus tour is slated to air a Nats segment tomorrow. That is all.

  21. UnkyD - Mar 5, 2013 at 12:21 AM

    LOL, 1A!!! Love the Bog piece, classic! Glad I wasn't drinking milk…

  22. natsfan1a - Mar 5, 2013 at 12:36 AM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. natsfan1a - Mar 5, 2013 at 12:37 AM

    Take two.I'd love to hear the audio on that, Unk.Okay, one more thing. Guys may want to take a pass on this one. Evidently it's been around for a while, but I just saw it. It's a Natschelor poll where you can vote for your fave to win the hearts of Natstown ladies. Evidently, an entrant's being married is not an issue. (Seriously, Tyler Moore at 1 percent? Why, if I were a few decades younger, and single, and into ballplayers. Eh, never mind.)

  24. UnkyD - Mar 5, 2013 at 2:17 AM

    I spend too much time imagining who will be traded for more prospects, as the youngsters become Big Leaguers… Giolito and Purke, if all goes well, will replace guys we love, and keep payroll manageable… And those whom they replace, will bring more top prospects. If someone other than Zim mans 1st, after '14, we'll have more MI than we can use… SO much fun, turning it around in my head!

  25. baseballswami - Mar 5, 2013 at 2:22 AM

    I really thought Mark DeRosa and Rick Ankiel were done, but apparently not. Saw DeRo hit a home run(!) and Ankiel is playing right field for Houston on TV right now. Bo Porter using him as a veteran player/coach? More power to them. I find myself checking up on Morse, Lannan, and prospects we traded. The only player I ever followed before when he left was Adam Dunn. I will miss beast most of all and wish him the best. Hard to root for Lannan now that he plays for the enemy.

  26. SonnyG10 - Mar 5, 2013 at 3:24 AM

    Swami, we could root for Lannan to start well and for the Phillies BP to blow his games.

  27. Scooter - Mar 5, 2013 at 5:35 AM

    Great plan, Sonny!

  28. SlowPitch63 - Mar 5, 2013 at 12:02 PM

    Mark,Thanks for keeping us updated.I echo JD and Peric in praising Rizzo"s high risk-high reward approach, especially since we are pretty well set now and can wait a year or two for the rehab process to play out.Let's Play Two!

  29. m - Mar 5, 2013 at 12:21 PM

    Does anyone know what was the problem with Purke's shoulder? I assume he was shut down becuase there was problem. The article implies they went in and found nothing of consequence. Just what is this guy rehabbing?

  30. UnkyD - Mar 5, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    M: the article is pretty clear, as to what was found:"Turns out Purke's worst fears never were realized. Though doctors did clean up the shoulder and remove a couple of inflamed bursa sacs, the pitcher's labrum and rotator cuff were intact.All he needed now was time to get himself back into shape and back on the mound. That process continues this spring, with Purke still restricted to two bullpen sessions per week, his throwing restricted to 50 percent velocity.Frustrating as it might be, the 22-year-old understands why he must take the slow-and-steady approach for now."They just want to make sure I'm 100 percent when I get back and not rush me," he said. "And then that way I can pitch the whole season and not have any problems throughout. It's really not that bad. It's kind of hard to stay patient, but I understand the process."

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