The morning after split-squad games on Wednesday, the Nationals further trimmed their spring training roster by six players, including left-handed pitching prospect Matt Purke and outfield prospect Michael A. Taylor. Purke and Taylor were optioned to Class AA Harrisburg, and right-handed relievers Daniel Stange, Josh Roenicke, Clay Hensley and left-hander Danny Rosenbaum were assigned to minor league camp.
Purke, 22, allowed seven runs on 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings this spring. The left-hander, whom the Nationals signed to a major-league deal worth $4.15 million in 2011, pitched a full season last year for the first time since shoulder surgery in mid-2012. With a two-plus weeks left in camp, the Nationals wanted Purke to be stretched out into a starter rather than short appearances. The shoulder, he said, is healthy.
“It’s tremendous,” he said. “This game is just as much mental as it is physical. To be able to not have to worry about how my body is going to react, how it’s going to go day-to-day, it’s a huge weight off my shoulders. Now, I just got to focus on pitching.”
The Nationals want Purke to improve against left-handed batters. His splits in the minor leagues last year, Williams said, weren’t good but may be partly an aberration. Pitching coach Steve McCatty has worked with Purke this spring to throw his fastball down and away to left-handed batters or use a new slider.
Taylor, 22, among the Nationals’ best outfield prospects, flashed his speed, defensive prowess and improving bat in camp, but still showed room for improvement. He went 3 for 16 with a walk and three RBI in parts of 13 games. Taylor saw action throughout the outfield this spring, but Williams believes Taylor’s future is in center field.
“I see Devon White body-wise,” Williams said.
Hensley, 33, said the opt-out date in his contract isn’t until June but the Nationals are allowing him the chance to consider his future. He will take a day or so to decide if he wants to report to minor-league camp or if he will ask the team for his release, which he said they are willing to do.
Roenicke, 30, the brother-in-law of shortstop Ian Desmond, allowed four runs over 3 1/3 spring innings. Stange, 27, allowed three unearned runs over two innings. Rosenbaum, 25, allowed one run on three hits and three walks over 3 1/3 innings.
Nationals’ major league camp is now down to 49 players.
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