03/02/12 5:07 PM EST
Nats' young stars shine in exhibition
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals played their first exhibition game Friday afternoon, blanking Georgetown University, 3-0, at Space Coast Stadium.
Nationals left-hander Matt Purke highlighted the afternoon, pitching three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out three batters. Purke was scheduled to throw 40 pitches, but he ended up throwing 32 pitches, 23 for strikes. Most of the pitches were four-seam fastballs.
"I was supposed to go two innings, but they said, 'You haven't thrown so many pitches today. I'll give you another one.' I said, 'All right. I'll be out there,'" Purke said. "[The ball] felt good coming out of my hand. The ball was getting to the plate quickly."
Purke acknowledged that he was nervous, pointing out that prior to Friday's exhibition, the last time he pitched in a game was in the Arizona Fall League. He pitched just one inning every time he pitched in a game this offseason.
"It was really good to be out there," Purke said. "My biggest thing was to take advantage of every opportunity out there, and I did my best."
Outfielder Bryce Harper also started in the game and went 0-for-2 with a walk, which came in the first inning on four pitches. Two innings later, Harper tried to bunt for a base hit, but he was thrown out. In the fifth, he just missed hitting a home run, as the wind kept the ball in the park.
Manager Davey Johnson said he didn't have a problem with Harper bunting for a base hit. However, if Harper makes the team, he most likely will not be given the bunt sign.
"No big deal," Johnson said. "He was just trying to get something going. It came real close to being a base hit."
Said Harper: "I was trying to lay one down there and see what happens. That was it. It was just a bunt. I bunted a couple of times this year. I just try to work on things during Spring Training."
Harper also made a nice running catch off the bat of Georgetown catcher Kevin Johnson in the second inning. Harper must show that he that can improve on his routes to the ball and hit the cutoff man.
"I felt good in the outfield," Harper said. "I worked hard this offseason. I got a good jump on the ball."
Third baseman Anthony Rendon, Washington's first-round pick in last year's First-Year Player Draft, also started in the game and went 0-for-2 with a strikeout. Rendon's biggest at-bat came in the first inning with the bases loaded and one out, but he struck out looking.
"It was a regular at-bat like everybody else -- fastball, changeup," Rendon said. "I just thought the ball was outside, but I'm not the judge. The umpire is."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.