White Sox call up Purke for first MLB taste

Move provides club with fresh long reliever, frees up Jennings to serve as lefty specialist

White Sox call up Purke for first MLB taste

NEW YORK -- At 25, and as part of the White Sox bullpen at historic Yankee Stadium, Matt Purke is living the Major League Baseball moment he dreamed about since being selected by the Nationals in the 2011 MLB Draft.

But there could have been one thing that made this callup from Triple-A Charlotte even more perfect for the southpaw from Nacogdoches, Texas.

"I'm not complaining that I'm here," a smiling Purke said in the visitors' clubhouse prior to Friday's series opener. "But it would have been perfect had it been last series."

The White Sox are coming off of a series loss in Texas, where the bullpen worked a total of 10 1/3 innings. Adding Purke not only gives the White Sox a fresh long reliever but also allows manager Robin Ventura to use Dan Jennings in more of a left-handed specialist role later in the game.

Jennings had been working primarily in extended relief to date.

"You can use him a little bit more in being able to come in and get a couple of lefties if he needs to do it," said Ventura of Jennings. "You still have protection down there for a little bit longer.

"Especially [the Yankees], they do have a lot of switch-hitters. But with the lefties they have, and as short as it is to right field, it's good to have."

Purke's mom and dad, wife, brother, niece and nephew, his wife's parents and some other close friends and family members made the trip to New York. They all assembled quickly after Purke received the news in Norfolk, Va., on Thursday.

The non-roster invite to Spring Training posted a 2.30 ERA and 14 strikeouts over 15 2/3 innings for Charlotte, while limiting left-handers to a .111 average and holding opponents to a .100 mark with runners in scoring position and two outs. Purke has made 59 Minor League appearances (45 starts) over the past five years, but his next trip to the mound could be the one he's waited for his entire baseball life.

"I didn't see it coming," an ecstatic Purke said. "It's what we play for, and my dream of being a professional baseball player in the big leagues finally came true.

"It was a very exciting moment for me, my family and everyone who has been a part of this journey. It's been a long one. It hasn't been easy, it hasn't been short, and now it's time to enjoy it."

Narvaez would be next up

With Hector Sanchez gone to the Padres, the White Sox appear a little thin behind catchers Dioner Navarro and Alex Avila. Omar Narvaez, who has been with the White Sox since 2014 and is playing for Charlotte, would be next up if a need arose.

"We got a good taste of him in Spring Training, being able to get him in some games," Ventura said. "We brought him over a couple of more times to get an extended look at him in case a situation like this happened. We are feeling pretty comfortable about what he could do if we need him."

Kevan Smith was with the White Sox and scheduled to start in Toronto on April 25, before hurting his back pregame and going on the disabled list. Ventura said Smith "is not over the hump yet."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.