Former Texas Christian pitcher Matt Purke was one of the bigger headlines coming out of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft and with good reason. The tall southpaw could bring the heat and had an impeccable college career with the Horned Frogs, leading them to their first College World Series.
After looking very good in instructional league camp with the Nationals, Purke was sent to the Arizona Fall League to pitch for the Scottsdale Scorpions under the watchful eye of pitching coach Paul Menhart.
But the 6-foot-4, 180 lb., hurler struggled mightily out of the blocks. The difficulties reached a breaking point at Surprise on Oct. 21, where Purke allowed seven runs on five hits, a homer, one walk and no strikeouts. He recorded just one out.
Menhart quickly observed what Purke was doing in his delivery and worked on a change in his stance.
Nationals director of player development Doug Harris said the adjustment was key to Purke’s turnaround.
“”I think Paul made some delivery adjustments with (Purke) that improved his posture,” Harris said. “It improved his line (and) that allowed his arm to work more efficiently.
“His velocity was up. I think his next to last outing he was up to 95 mph. His ball had better life. His breaking ball had better depth. Those adjustments were significant in maximizing his stuff.”
The adjustment in his posture created instant results. In his final four appearances in the AFL, Purke went four innings allowing no runs, two hits, one walk and had four strikeouts. He had recorded just one strikeout in his first three games before the change was made.
Purke’s velocity hitting mid-90s in Arizona and his overall makeup will be a very valued commodity as spring training approaches for the Nationals. It will be interesting to see if this adjustment in his stance and posture will take and become a permanent component of his delivery.