Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Matt Purke will start for the Nationals tomorrow against Georgetown.
So instead of starting tomorrow night for the Horned Frogs against Oklahoma State, the 21-year-old left-hander will start tomorrow afternoon for the Nationals against ... Georgetown.
Guess Purke hasn't entirely graduated to the big leagues yet, even though he's in big-league camp this spring.
"I'm just thankful for every opportunity I get out there," he said. "There's a lot of guys who need to get innings, so when I get a chance to go out there, I'm definitely appreciative and try to make the most out of it. I'm excited. I'm glad to finally be back for the start of a season fully healthy."
Not wanting to use his regular starters for tomorrow's noon charity game against the Hoyas, manager Davey Johnson will instead turn to his backups and top prospects. In addition to Purke, first-round draft picks Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon will be in the lineup.
(The full starting nine: 2B Steve Lombardozzi, LF Xavier Paul, RF Bryce Harper, 1B Tyler Moore, DH Brett Carroll, 3B Anthony Rendon, CF Corey Brown, SS Andres Blanco, C Sandy Leon. Other pitchers scheduled to appear after Purke include Austin Bibens-Dirkx, Rafael Martin, Waldis Joaquin, Jeff Fulchino and Atahualpa Severino.)
The Georgetown lineup may not prove to be that much of a test for Purke, who posted a 1.71 ERA in 11 starts last season at TCU. But the opportunity to take the mound for the first time wearing a big-league uniform is enough to get the young lefty excited.
Purke has tried to soak in every moment he's had so far in camp, learning what he can from veteran teammates and coaches. He's drawn positive reviews for his throwing sessions, which have been smooth and efficient and have erased any questions about the state of his left shoulder (which hindered him last year in college).
He has no chance of making the Opening Day roster, and won't get a chance to start another big-league game this spring, but Purke believes there's plenty he'll get from this experience.
"Just being around these guys," he said, looking around the clubhouse. "There are a bunch of really good guys in here, All-Stars. There's a lot of good talent and a lot of young guys who are going to play for a long time. I'm just thankful to be in this situation and to be able to play out there. I know there's a lot of guys ahead of me, but I'm going to put my best effort out there. I'm always going to do that, no matter where I am. Because my ultimate goal is one day to be on the big-league team and stay there. So I'm going to work towards that, no matter where I am or who I'm around."
As for tomorrow's start, don't ask Purke for a scouting report on Georgetown.
"I have no idea about them," he said. "All the teams we played were from the South or the West Coast. No East Coast teams for us. So we'll see."