Friday, March 2, 2012

Purke, Rendon enjoy spring debuts

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Matt Purke delivers a pitch in the top of the second inning.
VIERA, Fla. -- It had been quite some time since Matt Purke felt quite like this on the mound. Yes, the left-hander was starting to throw the ball well late during the Arizona Fall League season, but he was throwing one inning at a time out of the bullpen.

Purke hadn't gone multiple innings as a starter since last spring at TCU, and at that point there were some questions about the state of his shoulder. So today's spring training debut -- three sparkling innings against Georgetown -- was as good as it's been for the 21-year-old in nearly a year.

How good? Purke was initially scheduled to throw only two innings, but his pitch count was so low the Nationals sent him back out for the top of the third. He wound up throwing only 32 total pitches in three scoreless innings, 23 of them strikes.

"I was just focused on attacking hitters, throwing strikes and getting off the field as fast as possible," he said.

This was an important outing for Purke, the Nationals' third-round pick in last summer's draft. Not so much because of the results, but because of the way the young lefty looked. He had already impressed coaches and onlookers this spring with his smooth delivery in bullpen sessions, but until he did it in a game against live hitters, no one would know for sure.

Purke answered the biggest question surrounding him entering this start: his velocity. His fastball was clocked between 91-93 mph today, according to a club employee watching from behind the plate with a radar gun. That's a slight tick below Purke's peak velocity late in the AFL season, but above where it was when he was drafted.

"I don't know numbers, but it felt really good coming out of my hand," he said. "It felt like the ball was really getting to the plate pretty quickly."

The competition level wasn't anything spectacular. In fact, had Purke remained at TCU instead of entering the draft last summer, he'd likely have started for the Horned Frogs tonight against Oklahoma State (a superior program to Georgetown).

Still, Purke (who signed a four-year, $4.15 million major-league contract in August) admittedly had a few butterflies in the stomach when he took the mound this afternoon at Space Coast Stadium.

"I'd say the nerves would just be because I haven't pitched a game in months," he said. "And really in the Fall League I got limited time, and really the time before that I had extended time on the mound was May of last year. So for me, it was really, really good to be out there."

Equally pleased to be on the field today was Purke's draft classmate, Anthony Rendon, who likewise made his spring training debut in this exhibition opener.

Rendon, the sixth overall pick of the draft, started at third base and hit sixth for manager Davey Johnson, going 0-for-2 with a strikeout but emerging with a wide smile on his face.

"I felt awesome," he said. "Just to get back on the field, it was pretty good. It had been nine months. It's been a good while. It felt good to get back out there."

As was the case for Purke, Rendon made his professional spring debut against a college team likely inferior to much of the competition he would have faced this season at Rice. The 21-year-old actually was calmed by the sight of the Hoyas in the other dugout, as opposed to the Houston Astros club he'll see tomorrow in Kissimmee.

"I felt pretty much right at home," he said. "It wasn't like a big jump, a big transition. I just kind of eased myself in there, starting off with a college team. It wasn't like someone was coming out throwing 98-99. It was a good transition to ease myself back in."

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

First Ha, ha.

Signed Dennis the bold anon Menace.

Anonymous said...

What!? Both Rendon and Harper went hitless against collegiate pitching?
How 'bout we package 'em with Lannan and trade for a CF?

Fast Eddie

Gardner said...

Did Rendon make any hard throws? Have we put concerns about his ability to throw to rest?

Positively Half St. said...

Fast Eddie-

Good work. That comment was mid-season form!

Spring training or not, I am so pleased to get back to the daily rhythm of games. Comments, whether silly or measured, can be tied to actual performance, and not to theoretical PECOTA projections and previous WAR numbers. They sustained me through the winter, but I need box scores now.

If Houston weren't so God-forsaken, I would wish that Livo would pitch a shutout the first few innings tomorrow, before a Nats barrage gave us more optimism. However, they are pathetic enough that they need Livo regardless, so let's see Harper smash one.

Everyone (like Rafael Martin and Bibens-Dirkx today) exceeds expectations this spring! Everyone earns a spot, whether they get it with the Nats, someone else in a trade, or our minor league system because of a numbers game.

+1/2St.

baseballswami said...

What's the philosophy at this point of st? Are they actually supposed to win or are they supposed to work on stuff? Are they supposed to be watching a lot of pitches and tracking them or are they supposed to try to hit them out of the park? I am never quite sure. Seems to me that they say they are supposed to work on stuff, but the young guys have very few at-bats to catch the eye of the coaches and so they are trying to get big hits. As long as our pitchers aren't wearing any hits, bunts or foul balls I would be quite grateful to the baseball gods.

Eugene in Oregon said...

baseballswami @ 8:08,

First and foremost, they're supposed to avoid getting hurt.

Second, get back in the rhythm of the game (i.e., the flow of playing real games, not just participating in workouts).

Third, work on anything you've been working on or been told to work on (as you suggest, it could be tracking pitches, it could be hitting to the opposite field, etc.).

Winning doesn't matter -- at this point. As ST progresses, then you want to see the team begin to gel and win some games, but certainly the score isn't important to anyone the first week or two.

Steve M. said...

It was nice watching Rendon and Purke out there.

I sat behind home plate and saw Purke hitting low 90's on the gun. His breaker had nice movement. I noticed his release point was moving around based on what pitches he was throwing, and with real MLB hitters they will know what is coming based on his release point. These college players were fooled badly by Purke. Even the double in the 1st that got past Rendon may not have eluded Zimmmerman at 3rd.

Rendon didn't do anything with his 2 at-bats and that was disappointing but its just 1 game.

Tyler Moore had one of the harder hits otherwise the Nats hitting was far from good.

It was nice seeing the last few innings with an outfield of Michael Taylor, Destin Hood and Eury Perez.

ehay2k said...

I see MLB has expanded the playoffs to 10 teams!

Say it, savor it: Nats in the playoffs.


GYFNG - and may the best 25 go north, because this is a marathon not a sprint.

ehay2k said...

(Sorry, was on the road this week and missed a lot of news.)

Still, Playoffs? We're talking about PLAYOFFS?!?

Yes, yes we are.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

OK, in the spirit of all the free marketing brilliance I've donated over the many years---if I were marketing the Nats, I think we'd need a GYFNG Marathon -- or at least a 6-miler.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

OK, here's an idea, just blue sky, back-of-a-napkin, tell me what you think: have a 5K before every home game, winner and his designated party get to sit wherever they want in the stands--a blank-check ticket.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

better still--BP for fans. Anyone who hits one out gets to sit in the Gold seats.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

Better still--anyone who hits one out the day before gets to 86 anyone wearing a Phillies cap.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

OK, that's probably unworkable.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

So, it needs to be something anybody can do, but favoring Nats fans/locals; something catchy, an easy concept to grasp and communicate; something arguably relevant; something fun; and something memorable.

Winner gets blank-check tickets for two to the full park--they can go anywhere they want where fans are allowed.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

I like the blank-check ticket idea, but as a practical idea, it's not going to fill the joint.

We need a broader, value-based approach.

For example, some places give a discount if the home team accomplishes X. How about this: what if we give an award (pin, button, trophy, something) if the decibel count in the park reaches X, AND --- AND mind you --- the Nats "come through"--so it's on the players as well.

??

I like that one.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

SO---late, close---the fans have to rev up the cheer-0-meter, but if the team doesn't do anything in response -- sorry, no "10-Player" award button tonight. But if Zimm gets the dinger---you've got a story to tell for the next several decades.

It WORKS, mate! It works.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

Damn, I'm good. They need me.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

@Section3mysofa

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

Just in case... : )

Cwj said...

You're on a roll Sec 3 :)

Sunderland said...

Sec3, running the 5K? No. Offing opponents? No gonna work. But the 10th man pin, that is only rarely earned, that's workable.
Ground rules - 7th inning or later, down by 1 run for each inning remaining (complex, I know). So down by 3 in the 7th, by 2 in the 8th, by 1 in the 9th. Get the decibel meter to a certain level. Team comes back. Voila, everyone win.
I like it. You're hired.

MicheleS said...

Sec3.. you just got a new follower on twitter..

Theophilus said...

PECOTA projections? Sounds like something the color guy on the jai alai match would be talking about. Oh, no -- that must have been Joe "Adios, Pelota!" Angel. In any event, I hope never to see it again on this list.

Anonymous said...

Sec3:
I think you just set a new record: 11 consecutive, uninterrupted posts. Thankfully, you fell asleep at the keyboard sometime after 12:21 AM.

Fast Eddie

baseballswami said...

Lots of folks who don't sleep very much around here. Morning entertainment for me, though. Let the games begin - real baseball, aaaaaaah.

Anonymous said...

Put down the crack pipe Sec 3

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

OK, so that's 4-2, in favor. I'll take it.

But now I have to go back to posting on Twitter? Dang. Well, it's time. Play ball!

natsfan1a said...

I'll have what he's having. :-)

In other news, is today's game on MASN or not? Yesterday the team site's schedule indicated it was, but it's not on the MASN site's schedule or on my cable provider's guide.

natsfan1a said...

After looking, the team site schedule is back to listing radio only for today.

NatsJack in Florida said...

There was a glitch in my twitpic address but it's fixed now. Should get some good shots at todays game.

I have it on good word that Christian Garcia is completely healthy and that we will see him in some Nats ST games.

natsfan1a said...

Guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuzz!!! That is all.

MicheleS said...

1A.. The Nats Ticket Office do read this blog, so they probably saw our confusion from yesterday and updated. That STINKS that the game is not on today!.. But at least we get the full squad tomorrow. I wanted to see Livo.

natsfan1a said...

Here's a Strasburg (AP) story from the Florida Today site.

MicheleS said...

Sec3...Always in your favor.. don't worry about tweeting..I think of it as a way to keep up with my imaginary friends (and ask Mark and Amanda dumb questions!!! - someone has to entertain them)

natsfan1a said...

MicheleS, agreed. Maybe the CSN crew could snag and tape an interview with the big guy for us.

Peter Angelos said...

Today's game will be on MASN2. In related news, MASN2 doesn't exist outside of the regular season.

MicheleS said...

1A... CSN seems to be the only Sports channel from our area that is actually covering the Team. I watched the MASN report yesterday and about 20 minutes of a 2 hour show on Nats, Rest O's. I actually like AMber.. too bad she is an O's fan.

MicheleS said...

In Other news.. I have been up since 7 am making Chocolate Chip cookies (i have to make them for someone's birthday).. I wonder if there is a way to get a care package to Detwiler. He still looks like he needs to gain some weight.

natsfan1a said...

MicheleS, yeah, kinda lame on MASN's part. Glad that we have our own intrepid CSN guy (and gal) on the scene.

mmmm...I do love chocolate chippers...

Anonymous said...

Doesn't the weight Detwiler needs come from a weight-lifting regimen? I thought his unwillingness to do that was the issue.

Post a Comment