NEW YORK - Daniel Murphy and the Nationals know there are going to be times when the veteran second baseman appears to be less than 100 percent comfortable running the bases or making plays in the field, even eight months removed from microfracture surgery on his right knee.
What both sides also know, though, is this: No matter how many styles points he loses, Murphy’s potential contributions now that he’s finally making his season debut will far outweigh them.
“It may not always look pretty, but my game has never really been pretty,” Murphy said this afternoon with a laugh. “I’ve spent a lot of time on my back falling down, so it’s just kind of the nature of the beast.”
Though he admittedly is still trying to get comfortable again decelerating on the bases and charging in on slow ground balls, Murphy does believe he’s ready to hit major league pitching. And that’s what he’ll get plenty of opportunities to do this week, with the Nationals playing five straight games in American League parks and thus needing a designated hitter.
“It would naïve to say that this isn’t a favorable time for me, personally,” he said. “We had an off-day yesterday, two games in the American League, another off-day and then three more in the American League. It doesn’t mean I’ll play in every one. I’ll do whatever Davey (Martinez) says. But it does, I think, afford us the opportunity to maybe ease me back into it, if it’s necessary.”
Martinez intends to meet with Murphy every day and insist the 33-year-old truthfully tell him how his surgically repaired knee feels.
“He’s got to be totally honest with me, and I’ve got to be honest with him,” Martinez said. “If I think he needs a day off, he’s going to get a day off. So he knows that. We’ve got to be really careful. We want him to play, but we also want him to play for the rest of the year and keep him healthy for the whole year.”
Murphy said the 10 games he played on a rehab assignment with Double-A Harrisburg allowed him not only to get at-bats and play in the field but also to regain confidence in the stability of his right knee, which prevented him from being a full participant in spring training.
“From the beginning (of the rehab assignment) to the end, I felt like my brain trusted that my knee is healthy,” he said. “So that was able to get better. And then I think by the end of it, the baseball skills were getting better as well. I felt better defensively, I felt better offensively. Spring training probably is necessary for me (in future years), because I did need those games.”
The tentative plan is for Murphy to serve as DH again in Wednesday’s game against the Yankees, but Martinez said he’s confident he can use the veteran at second base if needed. With three games this weekend in Toronto, the Nationals could wait until they return home Monday to face the Yankees again before trying Murphy in the field.
“I didn’t want to come back if I didn’t feel like I was ready,” Murphy said. “I think I’m in a position to help this team win baseball games, and that’s my goal right now.”
Even if it isn’t always pleasing to the eyes.
“I don’t want him to look pretty,” Martinez said. “I just want him to do his job and we’ll see how it goes.”