- - Friday, June 15, 2018

Tim Cate grew up in Manchester, Connecticut, about two hours southwest of Boston, and the first major league game he saw in person was at Fenway Park.

He remembers watching the 2004 Red Sox, who won the World Series that October. Cate was a fan of the Red Sox and pitcher Pedro Martinez, who starred for the team from 1998 to 2004.

Cate hopes to one day earn a spot at a big league stadium as a lefty pitcher. The former University of Connecticut standout began that journey this week in West Palm Beach, Florida, after he signed with the Washington Nationals on Tuesday.

“I can tell it is a well-run organization,” Cate said in a telephone interview Thursday night from Florida. “I am really happy to be a part of it. There are great players in the organization. It is definitely cool to be part of it.”

Cate was a second-round pick of the Nationals in early June, and earlier this week the Nationals announced the signing of several players from the three-day draft. He stopped by Nationals Park before heading to Florida for workouts.

“Honestly I didn’t know if they were interested in me until two day before the draft,” he said. “I was talking to my agent and he said the Nationals were the most interested of any club.”

Cate had not been assigned to a minor league team as of Thursday, but possible landing spots are the Gulf Coast League or Auburn (New York) of the short-season New York-Penn League.

The New York-Penn League begins its season Friday, while the Gulf Coast League starts on Monday.

“I came here with very few expectations. I knew it would be different than what I was used to,” he said.

The previous two summers, Cate was part of USA Baseball, becoming the first UConn product to be part of the USA national program for more than one summer.

In the summer of 2016, he pitched at Angel Stadium in Anaheim against the Conejo Oaks in a 23-game schedule that included games in California, Taiwan, Japan and Cuba. He went four innings out of the bullpen and fanned five batters. Cate pitched one inning against power Cuba on July 23, 2016.

What is it like being a pitcher from the cold-weather Northeast?

“It is kind of hard for me to relate (to others); it is all I know,” said Cate, who pitched in 30-degree weather while in college.

This past season, he was 5-4 with a 2.91 ERA in 11 games, with seven starts. He dealt with some arm problems this season but is very aware the Nationals are not afraid to draft pitchers who have had arm problems as amateurs.

That includes right-hander Erick Fedde, who was drafted in the first round in 2014 and around that time had Tommy John surgery. Fedde came up through the minors and made his big league debut in three games last season with the Nationals.

Fedde started on Wednesday at New York against the Yankees and went five innings and allowed four runs. Fedde did not figure in the decision as the Nationals won 5-4 as rookie Juan Soto hit two go-ahead homers.

A Connecticut paper reported Cate signed with the Nationals for $986,000.

“He has one of the best left-handed curveballs in the draft to go along with a really good fastball. He is a strike thrower with good, smooth delivery,” Washington scouting director Kris Kline said the day after Cate was drafted.

Among the other pitchers signed this week by the Nationals were a pair of right-handed college hurlers: Colin Morse of Division III Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia and Bobby Milacki of Arizona Christian University.

Morse is a McLean High product and his brother, Phil, who also played at Shenandoah, is a pitcher in the Nationals system with low Single-A Hagerstown.

Milacki is the son of Bob Milacki, the Triple-A pitching coach for Syracuse in the Washington system. He went in the 38th round while Morse was taken in the 26th round earlier this month.

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