Matt Purke
Matt Purke, here in 2012.. (Matt Slocum/Associated Press)

The Nationals announced Monday afternoon the signing of recently-released former prospect Matt Purke to a minor league deal. The left-handed starter also received an invitation to big league spring training.

The Nationals released oft-injured Purke on Friday, freeing up a 40-man roster spot that will be needed later this week ahead of Thursday’s deadline to protect players before the Rule 5 draft. The Nationals have had success rehabbing players returning from Tommy John surgery, such as Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg and Lucas Giolito. Purke underwent the elbow surgery in late May and will continue his existing rehab program.

“We are excited to keep Matt in the organization and to keep his rehab on track,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said. “We look forward to seeing him rebound from his surgery during the upcoming season.”

The Nationals took a chance on Purke when they drafted him in the third round of the 2011 draft out of Texas Christian University. The left-hander became a top prospect in college, was worn down by his heavy college workload and hurt his shoulder. Before the draft system changed under the new collective bargaining agreement, the Nationals gambled, handing the injured Purke a major league contract worth $4.15 million, including a $2.75 million bonus, and hoped to rehab him back to form.

But Purke needed shoulder surgery in 2012 and wasn’t the same after. He has made only 29 minor league starts. The most Purke has thrown in a professional season is 90 innings in 2013 between Class A Hagerstown and Class A Potomac, logging a 3.80 ERA. He posted a 8.04 ERA at Class AA Harrisburg this year before hurting his elbow.