04/17/08 7:54 PM ET
Purcey thrilled to be pitching in
Left-hander called up from Syracuse for spot start on Friday
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
After taking one look at the Texas license plates on Purcey's car, the Canadian border officials decided to inspect the vehicle. But when Purcey made his way back to the border on Thursday and told the guards that he was heading to Toronto to pitch for the Blue Jays, he was waved right on through.
"They didn't search our car the second time," Purcey said with a smile.
Toronto summoned the left-hander from Syracuse for a spot start against the Tigers on Friday. A.J. Burnett was originally scheduled to pitch, but he made a rare relief appearance in Wednesday's 14-inning loss to the Rangers, so Toronto opted to move his start to Sunday.
That opened the door for Purcey, who was a first-round pick by the Blue Jays in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft. In order to make room on the roster for the 25-year-old, Toronto placed reliever Brian Wolfe on the 15-day disabled list with a right triceps strain.
The promotion has been a long time coming for Purcey, who has endured his share of ups and downs throughout his time in Toronto's farm system. After sustaining a left arm injury that hindered his performance last season, he has rebounded well enough to finally earn a shot at a big league start.
"It happened when it needed to," he said. "I learned a lot in the Minor Leagues for a couple of years, and just had time to learn who I was as a pitcher and what I needed to do on the mound, as opposed to just what everyone else thinks I should do. I feel comfortable with what I'm doing."
Last year Purcey began the year with Double-A New Hampshire, finishing 3-5 with a 5.37 ERA in 11 starts. He landed on the DL in June and missed the remainder of the season with a stress fracture in his left elbow and problematic cysts in his left forearm.
Following surgery to correct both issues, Purcey headed to the Arizona Fall League and posted a 1.23 ERA over six starts, striking out 25 and allowing just 13 hits over 22 innings. Through two starts this season with Syracuse, he was 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA, 21 strikeouts and a .182 opponents' batting average over 19 innings.
"He's one of our guys," manager John Gibbons said. "He was a big pick for us a few years ago. He was off to a good start down there, so he was the logical choice."
Barring any unforeseen setbacks to Toronto's rotation, Purcey is only in the plans for Friday's start against Detroit. Following that outing the Blue Jays will likely add a reliever -- Brandon League is a candidate -- to fill in for the next two weeks while Wolfe is sidelined.
Dustin McGowan will start as planned for the Blue Jays on Saturday, but the rest of the rotation will need to be shuffled somewhat in order to account for Burnett being held back until Sunday. Shaun Marcum and Jesse Litsch are now slated to start on Monday and Tuesday, respectively.
"We won't need [Purcey] past [Friday]," said Gibbons. "We've still got our five starters."
Even if its just for one start, Purcey is thrilled to be with the Blue Jays.
"I'm just looking forward to getting in and helping any way that I can," he said.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.