Murphy still needs a week of running before playing games

Daniel Murphy's advancement in daily workouts - running sprints in the outfield, taking full rounds of batting practice and grounders at second base - may suggest the rehabbing Nationals veteran is nearly ready to begin playing in games.

To anyone who is having that notion right now, manager Davey Martinez wants you to start pumping the brakes a bit.

daniel-murphy-rehab-drills-spring.jpgDespite the significant progress he's made in the last week, Murphy still has some significant hurdles to cross before he suits up for a game.

"I would say he's probably got another week of running the bases," Martinez said. "We want to see him really run the bases, go first-to-third, score on base hits, things like that. And then after that, we'll determine where he's at. I watched him work out today, and he's coming along really well. He's progressing really well. Hopefully we get him back fairly quickly, but like I've said before we want to make sure he's totally ready."

Murphy, recovering from October microfracture surgery on his right knee, made it clear this spring he wouldn't come back until he knew he could play without requiring extra time off or special accommodations from his manager. He may not need an excess number of at-bats to feel ready, but that's not necessarily what will determine his readiness to return to the active roster.

"He's been hitting for a while; he started hitting in spring training," Martinez said. "So it's just a matter of getting him at-bats and starting to see live pitching. But the way his swing is, I don't necessarily think he needs that much of that. It's just getting him on his feet, playing games, and just getting him out there to play five, six innings to get going, and then go from there."

Though Howie Kendrick (batting .333 entering tonight) has been productive in Murphy's absence, the Nationals lineup admittedly looks a lot less imposing without one of the most accomplished hitters in baseball slotted in among Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman.

"I know Murphy from playing against him, and doing reports on him was not easy trying to get him out," Martinez said. "Having him in our lineup definitely helps a lot, and I can't welcome him enough when he gets back. But the guys that we have are pretty good. They really are. I'm pleased with how Howie's doing and (Wilmer) Difo's doing. But getting him back is definitely going to help us, yes."

Meanwhile, Jeremy Hellickson moved a step closer to joining the Nationals rotation Saturday when he completed six innings and threw approximately 69 pitches in an extended spring training game in West Palm Beach. The veteran right-hander, who signed a minor league deal in late-March, will remain in Florida for now.

"We'll probably reevaluate this week and see what we're going to do," Martinez said. "I think we definitely want him to make one more start before we decide what to do."

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