New Indian Murphy starting over

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- David Murphy attracted lots of attention in November with one of the cutest news leaks in memory. Word of his pending free-agent deal with the Cleveland Indians made the rounds after his 5-year-old daughter let it slip at her day-care center. The next thing Murphy knew, his two-year, $12 million agreement with the Indians was splashed all over the Internet.

Three months later, Murphy has recovered from the initial embarrassment and is able to have a good laugh about it. It helps that the disappointment of the 2013 season fades just a little bit more each day.

Murphy, by his own admission, never got on track last season in Texas. After hitting .304 with an .859 OPS in 2012, he dipped to .220 and .656 in 2013. He batted .198 on the road, slugged .291 versus lefties and never got into a consistent rhythm at the plate.

Murphy is one of the more insightful and analytical players you’ll find, and he spent the offseason trying to pinpoint the source of his problems. In hindsight, he determined that his travails had little to do with the pressure of playing for a new contract in his free-agent "walk" year.

"I really try to look in the mirror and be truthful when it comes to that," Murphy said. "You can see it being a pressure and a stress on top of just going out there and trying to perform for your team, but I don’t feel like it was that big of a deal for me. I know I’m not a high-profile guy. Yes, if I would have had a good year, I probably could have gotten a better payday, but at the end of the day, I still got a nice contract. And I’ve still made plenty of money in this game to take care of my family, so it’s not like it was a make-or-break, life-and-death situation."

Murphy thinks his problems stemmed more from changing his approach to compensate for the loss of Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Mike Napoli from the Texas lineup.

"I tried to step outside of the player I had been in the past," he said. "I was motivated to play a bigger role in the offense, but I kind of went about it the wrong way. I tried to be a different player and hit for more power. I think I tried to pull the ball a little too much, and my swing got a little bit long. It was a good learning experience. It wasn’t fun to experience, but I’ve seen a lot of great players who have had way better careers than me have some tough years."

Murphy will probably bat sixth in the order for manager Terry Francona in Cleveland. The Indians tied for fourth in the American League with 745 runs scored and ranked seventh in OPS at .737, and there appears to be room for improvement. Other than Yan Gomes and Ryan Raburn, no Cleveland hitter posted numbers in 2013 that were appreciably better than his career norms.

The plan calls for Michael Brantley to play left field, Michael Bourn to return to center and Murphy to shift from left field to right. He’s made 142 career starts in right field (compared to 483 in left and 40 in center) and anticipates a relatively smooth transition.

"I went from having a pretty good left-field arm to having one of the worst right-field arms," Murphy said with a laugh. "But I’ll try to be accurate."