Admittedly, I was one of the skeptical ones who didn't think we'd see Matt Purke on the mound again for the Frogs in his career. Glad to say I was wrong. As most of you know, Purke made his return to the mound yesterday against New Mexico and looked like his old self again, throwing 42 pitches, with 27 of those being strikes over the course of 3 innings, striking out 4 and walking 1 and allowing only 1 hit. He was on a pitch count (roughly 40 pitches) so the sample was small, but he averaged 90 mph with his fastball, hitting as high as 92 on the gun yesterday. Most importantly, however, was that he pitched pain free. Apparently his mechanics were tinkered with a bit as well, raising his arm slot slightly to prevent him from "slinging the ball" which more than likely is done to put less stress on his arm. Let's hope now that he can expand on this 42 pitch performance and work his way back into starter's form in time for the regionals. The real test will be to see how Purke pitches in the later innings, because early in the season there was a drastic drop in velocity the deeper he got into games. So until we see him in full starter's mode and against a solid opponent, I'll temper my excitement, but yesterday was definitely a positive sign and a step in the right direction. Perhaps most importantly, it deepens a pitching staff which has really been coming of age lately.
Also returning to the mound in relief of Purke was ace Kyle Winkler, who shined after sitting out last weekend to rest his arm. Winkler, whom I have no concerns about whatsoever, went 4 2/3 innings, allowing 0 runs, 3 hits, and striking out 2 while walking 0. This did not come as a surprise, but it's good to see that he was his usual sharp self yesterday as TCU cruised to a 9-0 blowout of lowly New Mexico. Let's hope that Steven Maxwell comes back pain free on Saturday as well and we have our complete rotation ready to go for the postseason. I like the idea of our postseason rotation with those 3, and having the likes of Andrew Mitchell, Stefan Crichton, Erik Miller, and even Nick Frey and Kyle Starratt as viable options out of the bullpen if necessary. It should also be noted that the bats continue to heat up, especially Joe Weik, who went 4-4 with a homerun yesterday. After a dreadful start to the season, Weik has stepped up and produced like we expected of late, upping his average to .291 and taking over the team lead with 8 long balls. Hopefully we can complete the sweep this weekend, because I think that would almost assure a regional in Fort Worth in a few weeks.