Early Friday afternoon, the Washington Nationals kicked off their Spring schedule with an exhibition game against the Georgetown Hoyas. While it was merely an exhibition, it was the first actual live game action of the 2012 season – which in it of itself is something to get excited about it.
Now, throughout the Spring and the Regular Season you’ll be seeing a great deal of coverage here at DoD after each and every game. I won’t get into specifics for how we’ll be managing such a task (admittedly they haven’t all been worked out just yet), but we won’t be addressing the exhibition games in the same manner. That said, can we still take some positives away from this game, even though the statistics don’t count? Yes, of course.
First and foremost, the outing was a big plus for Matt Purke. The left-hander is in camp with the Nationals by virtue of having signed a Major League contract after being taken in last year’s draft. Aside from a brief stint in the Arizona Fall League in November, he has yet to make his professional debut. Washington just simply is not going to rush him and besides, there isn’t any room in the starting rotation for him right now anyways.
Purke drew the honor of getting this start against the Hoyas in part because the team’s front office executives were anxious to see what the prized prospect was capable of doing after such an extended layoff from pitching competitively. He had looked good in most of the organized workouts thus far, according to Mark Zuckerman, but this was the organization’s first opportunity to see him against live batters.
Purke was slated to pitch two innings, but ended up throwing three due to a low pitch count. Over his 3.0 innings of work he only threw 32 pitches, 23 of which were strikes. He allowed just one hit, struck out three, and walked none. His fastball was clocked in the low 90s (slightly better than where he sat prior to being drafted). Most importantly, he looked poised, composed, and comfortable on the mound.
Also worth noting …..
Nationals pitchers (Purke, Rafael Martin, Waldis Joaquin, Austin Bibens-Dirkx, and Jeff Fulchino) combined to strike out 14 batters while allowing only 4 baserunners (all hits, zero walks). Remember, these are collegiate hitters they were facing but it’s still an overall impressive performance by a group of guys fighting for a remote chance to make this Nationals team.
Bryce Harper started the game in right field and batted third. He went 0 for 2 with a walk. In the third inning he tried to drop a bunt down for a single, but the ball went just towards the right of the mound and Harper was unable to beat an easy throw to first.
Anthony Rendon started at third base and batted sixth. Like Purke, he was drafted by the team last June and has yet to make his professional debut. Also like Purke, he’s in camp because of the Major League contract he signed with the team but likely stands no chance at actually making the 25-man roster come April. He was 0 for 2 with a strikeout, leaving four men on base.
The only player who stands an actual chance at making the 25-man roster in April that played in the game was Steve Lombardozzi. He led off and started at second base, going 0 for 2 with a walk.