PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — Daniel Murphy doesn’t care where he plays, so long as he can compete.
But once again he finds himself trying to learn a new position just to get that opportunity.
The 25-year-old is one of four players competing for the New York Mets’ second base job this spring.
So far, he remains a strong candidate, despite the fact he is playing his fourth position in five years and might be better suited for a utility role.
Luis Castillo, Brad Emaus and Justin Turner also are in the mix at second, according to manager Terry Collins.
“He’s moving very good for me,” Collins said of Murphy. “… A lot of times just watching his footwork, when the ball is hit, he is moving good. His leg’s not a question, so I am very happy for him. I’m glad he’s healthy, and I just hope he gets some double plays so I can see how he reacts to them.”
Murphy has moved around to try to find a place on the team.
He struggled as an outfielder in 2009 and moved to first base where he was set to start last season before suffering a right knee sprain at the end of spring training.
Former first-round draft pick Ike Davis secured first base while Murphy was on the disabled list, forcing Murphy to try second.
In just his second game playing the position in Triple-A Buffalo in June, he ended up with a season-ending tear of the medial collateral ligament in that same knee.
Despite the setback, Murphy said he feels more comfortable and capable of playing second after gaining experience there during winter ball in the Dominican Republic and arriving early to camp for voluntary workouts the first week of February.
“It’s going really well,” Murphy said. “I feel like I’m getting a little better every day. I feel like I’ve come a long way in a short amount of time, but also with that is the understanding I still have a long way to go to get where I want.”
Collins would like to see Murphy’s left-handed bat in the lineup. Collins said although the second base position requires good defense, it also is becoming a more offensive position. Murphy led the Mets with 12 home runs in 2009, while hitting .266 with 63 RBIs.
Meanwhile, the other three candidates at second base also have their own situations.
Castillo is owed $6 million this year, and Emaus could be helped by his status as a Rule 5 selection, which would require the Mets to offer him back to Toronto if he doesn’t remain on the major league roster this season.
The Mets claimed Turner off waivers from Baltimore last May, and he batted .333 in Triple-A Buffalo in 2010.
“We’ve got to start making some choices there,” Collins said.
Murphy has been putting in some extra time learning the position, especially with his pivots. He often comes in early or stays late to get in some practice time by himself.
“We have a pitching machine in the batting cages, so I go in there and turn it on and work on transfers and some of my footwork without it being too taxing or worrying about finishing the play and throwing it, so it’s not too tiring on my arm,” Murphy said. “That’s more of a ‘me’ time, to get a feeling for my body and what I can do, things I need to work on, what I’m not quite as good at. It’s basically just me trying to get an understanding of myself as a second baseman.”
Murphy said playing second doesn’t feel any different on his knee, and he is completely healthy and ready to compete after testing it in winter ball this offseason.
“I got a chance to play some second base in a game situation, and it was also a chance to prove to myself and confirm what I already knew, which was I am healthy,” Murphy said. “I played for a month and didn’t miss a beat. I felt good, stole some bases and was able to kind of make up for some of the at-bats I missed last year.”
If Murphy doesn’t win the starting second base job, he moves into the competition for a bench spot, but he is hoping his versatility gives him an edge there.
“First and foremost I want to make this ball club,” Murphy said. “I want to help this team win. I hope the fact I can play first, I can play third, and I am getting more consistent at second that will allow me to make the team.”