It’d be hard to imagine that left-hander Matt Purke is thrilled with how his first full professional season has gone. Purke’s career in a Nationals uniform thus far seems to be a series of stops and starts.
The latest one: shoulder tendonitis that has him on the minor league disabled list and, once again, going through a rehab program.
According to a Nationals team official, the good news for Purke was that it is just tendonitis, likely developed from such a long layoff before he signed last summer, compounded by various periods where he ramped up (like the Arizona Fall League and major league spring training) before going to the minor league side to get stretched out slowly.
He visited with Dr. Lewis Yocum recently and he confirmed that the Nationals’ third-round pick wasn’t dealing with anything more. Rare good news from Yocum’s end.
But for Purke it is another setback and makes his road to the major leagues a little bit longer. The Nationals signed him to a major league deal last August worth around $4 million with the feeling that it would take him two or three years to reach the big leagues.
Coming off a shoulder injury in his final season in college, Purke didn’t throw to a batter from June until September’s instructional league. He finally got a chance to start in the Arizona Fall League, didn’t pitch well, and worked well but almost exclusively out of the bullpen in the remainder of his stint there.
He impressed many during his time in major league camp, performing well in the brief starts manager Davey Johnson tossed his way during the first few weeks of camp. Then he was kept in extended spring training until the end of May, partly so the Nationals could limit his innings total for the season and partly so they could slowly build up his arm strength.
He joined Single-A Hagerstown on May 30 and made three starts. In 15 1/3 innings, Purke allowed 15 hits, walked 12 batters, gave up 11 runs (10 earned) and struck out 14.
Purke will stay on his current rehab program until the Nationals are sure the tendonitis has subsided and he can resume pitching.
– On the subject of top pitching prospects, over the weekend the Nationals courted 2012 top pick Lucas Giolito. Giolito, a 6-foot-6, 230-pound right-hander, is committed to UCLA for the fall. The Nationals know they’ll have some recruiting to do in order to get Giolito, once considered a potential No. 1 overall pick, to sign with them and that started this weekend.
As things stand right now, according to Baseball America, the Nationals have saved enough with the seven of their top 10 picks that have signed to offer Giolito around $3,029,773.
For a kid who could have potentially gotten substantially more had he not fallen in the draft due to concerns over a right elbow injury that cost him most of his senior season, that prompted speculation from various draft pundits that the Nationals could be in position to exceed their $4.4 million allotment for their first 10 picks and potentially forfeit a future first-round selection.
To put those rumors to bed, I was told over the weekend by a source that under no circumstances would the Nationals ever forfeit a draft pick. As an organization run by a former scout and scouting director in Mike Rizzo, and a team that has been built largely on the back of good drafts, the Nationals view that pick far too valuable to forfeit by any means.
The penalties for overspending in this year’s draft go like this: if teams exceed their designated pool by 5 percent, they’ll pay a 75 percent tax on the amount over the limit they go. Most teams would find that reasonable if the player was worth the price. But as the percentages increase over 5 percent, penalties can increase to a 100 percent tax as well as the loss of two future first-round picks.
When it was pointed out that the Nationals, currently in first place in the NL East, could be in position to pick far lower in the draft next year than they ever have. The response I got was this: Carlos Quentin, an All-Star, Silver Slugger and one-time MVP candidate, was a No. 29 overall selection.
Essentially, there’s no bad place to pick in the first round of the draft and the Nationals don’t intend to lose their spot.