By Rich Coutinho
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It’s been a wild couple of years for Daniel Murphy. He was forced to change positions a whopping three times under two different managers. First, he was a left-fielder, then had to learn first base, and most recently Murphy had to try to master the second base position.
The left-field experiment did not all that long and a Carlos Delgado injury forced the Mets to try him at first base. Then, while trying to learn second base, he got injured — and had to start all over again this offseason.
He was learning a position that he was unsure about. Equally unsteady was whether the organization even wanted him there. After all, they had Luis Castillo and his $6 million guarantee, not to mention the Mets also picked Brad Emaus in the Rule 5 Draft. Murphy arrived in Port St. Lucie not really knowing whether he’d be with the Mets come Opening Day or Triple-A Buffalo.
But you would never know it being around him day in and day out.
Murphy is a tireless worker who absolutely loves the game of baseball — he loves talking about it, watching it and playing it. During spring training, you’d see Murphy there early every day, usually the second to arrive. David Wright generally got there first at the crack of dawn. Murphy spends times with the coaches, and not just the batting instructors. He picks Dan Warthen’s brain, for instance, so he can learn as much as he can about pitching — and how to use that information to get the most out of every at-bat.
Murphy is also a great teammate. And I mean great. Despite the fact he was battling with Castillo, Emaus and Justin Turner for the job, he handled it with class all the way.
When Castillo was released, Murphy kept a low profile. While the embattled second baseman’s demise seemingly helped Murphy onto the roster, he only expressed sadness and compassion for the veteran. And when Brad Emaus got the starting job, Murphy did not complain about it, but continued to work hard. He knew Terry Collins would give him a chance at some point.
With Emaus struggling, he got that chance in mid-April and has made the most of it. He still looks a little mechanical around the second base bag but the effort is there. He’s actually made some eye-popping defensive plays in the past few weeks.
On the offensive side, we always knew Murphy could hit, but he is starting to swing the bat with more authority and has even hit the occasional long ball. In fact, he leads all Mets hitters in batting with runners in scoring position. With Angel Pagan on the disabled list, he has filled the No. 2 position, giving Jose Reyes a patient hitter at the plate. The presence of the Mets’ effervescent shortstop ahead of him in the order has also given Murphy a steady diet of fastballs, enhancing his offensive profile.
It has been a long road for Murphy — and surely there are more challenges ahead. But he is up for it. Wouldn’t it be ironic if the Mets’ long search for a second baseman was staring them in the face all along?
Do you like Murphy at second base? Let Coutinho know in the comments below…