Matt Purke has made 24 starts and pitched 113 innings since undergoing surgery, and he's still feeling good.
The Nationals' No. 8 prospect continued his comeback year by tossing four solid innings on Saturday afternoon as Mesa coasted to a 9-4 victory over Surprise in the Arizona Fall League.
"After not being able to pitch that much last season -- having that surgery and missing that time -- you're able to come out here and get a good idea of what you need to work on, what's effective for you and what things you've got to take into the offseason to get better," said Purke, who allowed two runs on five hits and two walks while striking out three.
The TCU product made only three starts in 2012 before having surgery to remove bursa sacs and scar tissue in his pitching arm. After rehabbing, Purke (3-1) returned to the South Atlantic League and made six starts for Class A Hagerstown before being promoted to the Carolina League. He finally was able to get into a rhythm in 12 starts for Class A Advanced Potomac.
"It's been a good season for me to go out there and make all my starts, to be able to throw this long and still feel good and healthy," Purke said. "It's definitely a positive."
This fall, the 23-year-old left-hander has a 3.91 ERA and 17 strikeouts over 23 innings. He ranks second on the Solar Sox behind fellow Nats prospect Sammy Solis, who's fanned in 24 frames.
"Pretty much every guy on our team is really good," said Purke, a 2011 third-round pick. "Everybody that's been on this team has shown greatness."
Offensively, Purke was helped by 3-for-5 performances by Tigers No. 13 prospect Tyler Collins and batterymate Jett Brandy (Angels). Angels No. 2 prospect C.J. Cron had another big day for the Solar Sox with a homer, double and three RBIs. He raised his AFL-leading average to .400.
"It's definitely been a good learning experience to come out here and play baseball with a lot of good teammates and a lot of good competition," Purke said. "Everybody that's out there, they're the future for their organizations, so it's a good measuring stick for where you are at the end of the season."
With the Championship Game a week away and his season finally coming to a close, Purke probably has one more start before shutting things down.
"It's a long season, but it's a good mental challenge to be able to stay locked in and stay focused," he said.
For the Saguaros, Orioles outfielder Henry Urrutia went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer in the ninth and Rangers top prospect Jorge Alfaro singled, walked and drove in a run.
Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan.