For the first time in his career, David Murphy crushed left-handed hitters last season.
The reason? He quit trying to crush the ball. Sometimes, less is more.
Murphy, a career .253 hitter against left-handed pitchers entering 2012, hit .347 against southpaws last season. And that’s one of the reasons he enters this season as a starter instead of a platoon player.
“I stopped trying to hit 900-foot homers and started trying to hit singles,” Murphy said. “When you’re trying to hit singles you stay back on the ball better and you can determine whether it’s a fastball or off-speed pitch.
“Everybody loves homers. I’d like to hit more, but when you’re up there swinging as hard as you can you’re swinging almost as soon as the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand.”
Since Murphy wasn’t swinging for the fences, he became more selective at the plate. Instead of finding himself behind in the count 1-2, making him susceptible to sliders out of the strike zone, Murphy consistently worked the count to his advantage. That allowed Murphy to sit on fastballs and whack them. Now, Murphy, who has just one homer in his last 296 at-bats against left-handed pitchers, is focused on driving the ball. His last homer against a lefty came July 6, 2010 against Cleveland’s Rafael Perez.
Derek Lowe’s strength is his versatility -- and that’s why he’ll help this team. He can pitch three innings in a blowout. Or cover the fifth and sixth innings on a day the starter keeps finding trouble. He’s a 17-year veteran who’s not ready to find something else to do. He’s a groundball pitcher who’s secure in his ability and his role at this point of his career.
“He can fill multiple roles,” manager Ron Washington said. “He can go long for us if he has to, and he can go short if he has to.”
Lowe is scheduled to throw live batting practice Sunday. Then the Rangers will start preparing him for a role in the big leagues.
Michael Kirkman has pitched so well that the Rangers are afraid to get too excited. They don’t want to be let down if, for some reason, it doesn’t continue.
Kirkman has allowed two hits in four innings while striking out six. With Robbie Ross vying for a spot in the rotaton, Kirkman is a potentially important component to the bullpen because he is the only other left-handed option. Kirkman has the ability to be equally effective against left-handed and right-handed batters.
Last season, Kirkman finished 1-2 with a 3.82 ERA. He allowed 24 hits in 35 1/3 innings with 38 strikeouts and 17 walks. Opposing hitters hit just .182 against him.
“He’s throwing strikes consistently and he’s been consistent with his secondary stuff,” Washington said. “He’s keeping the ball down and he’s throwing downhill. I just hope he can continue because he’s going to be a big piece for us.”