Daniel Murphy has his marching orders from the Mets. After suffering season-ending medial collateral ligament injuries the past two years while manning second base -- in 2010 to his right knee and last season to his left knee -- Murphy again is going to train full throttle at that position in spring training, with Ruben Tejada shifting to shortstop.
“That’s my understanding -- it’s second base in spring training,” Murphy said. “And that’s what I’m preparing myself to do.”
New York Mets
Mostly recovered from an Aug. 7 takeout slide by Atlanta’s Jose Constanza, Murphy already is working out at his alma mater, Jacksonville University.
“It was six to eight weeks. I took probably about 10 just to be safe,” Murphy said about the recovery from the Grade 2 left MCL sprain. “I’m running. I’m hitting. I’m lifting. I’m doing everything right now. I’m not going to say that I want to go play 162 right now. I’m definitely looking forward to the next two months to get healthier and strengthen my legs. But if we had to strap it on right now, I’d be ready to go.
“I’ve got to play defense,” Murphy added. “I ain’t just going to be able to hit all year. And I know the perception. I’ve been over there twice. I got hurt twice. So I’m going to have to be as comfortable around second base as some would say I feel in the batter’s box. I’ve got to make that my second home.”
The 2010 injury, suffered to his right knee at Triple-A Buffalo, was the more severe of the injuries. Yet Murphy said his mobility this past season before getting injured again was fine, so he has little concern this second time.
Asked if he planned to wear bulky knee braces on both knees in 2012, Murphy said: “I’m not sure yet. I would prefer to stay away from two. Some days I go out there and I wear one on the left and won’t wear one on the right. Some days I don’t wear one at all when I’m working out. So we’ll see.”
Murphy, always identified as a hitter, ranked fifth in the NL in batting at .320 when his season ended. A natural third baseman, he has been shuttled from third base to first base to left field to second base and then back to first base and now second base again. He feels the stability of being the everyday second baseman will help him improve defensively.
“I think any time you’re able to work on one position, that’s great. You’re going to get more comfortable there,” Murphy said. “But it’s not always a luxury you get to have. Like I say every spring training, every year, I try to help this team win ballgames. If that happens to be first, second, third, outfield, then that’s what I’m willing to do. I think any player would like to stay at one. But at the end of the day it’s what’s best for the team.”
Murphy actually paused and rolled his eyes when he mentioned outfield, given how poorly his previous exposure there went.
Meanwhile, while both slides were aggressive, and the one from Syracuse’s Leonard Davis two seasons ago arguably dirty, Murphy now takes his share of responsibility for improper technique that left him vulnerable. He watched video of Constanza’s slide up until the metal spikes made contact with his knee. He stopped the video there, not wanting to stomach watching his knee bend inward.
“I think the one two years ago, I was behind the bag and I wasn’t in a great position to defend myself,” Murphy said. “The one this past year I was behind the bag again and I caught a guy, Constanza, it was his first time in the big leagues and he did exactly what I would have done. He came in hot, trying to steal a bag and help his team win. I just got caught in a bad spot and learned from it and will get better for the next time.”
At the plate, Terry Collins plans to use newly acquired Andres Torres as his primary leadoff hitter. But Murphy is the alternative there and should see some action.
“I batted leadoff for Jerry [Manuel] in Boston in ’09,” Murphy recalled. “I hit in every spot in the order that year except for No. 9. My brother kind of joked around and was like I’m not going to be running much from first. Hopefully you don’t have to run if you can hit a double. So maybe that will be my approach to it -- just try to split a gap and see if we can stand on second base. And then you don’t have to steal second.”