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David Murphy back where it all began for him with Red Sox

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- David Murphy doesn't have a nameplate above his locker, but he does have a Boston Red Sox jersey and a spot in the clubhouse.

The way things were going, the 34-year-old outfielder wasn't sure he'd even have a shot at playing on a big league roster this season.

After the Los Angeles Angels declined their $7 million club option on Murphy on Nov. 4 and gave him a $500,000 buyout, Murphy was a man without a team until he signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox on Monday.

"I don't know if it was kind of the perfect storm," Murphy said Tuesday morning. "I know that I'm getting older. I know that the game is being analyzed differently now in terms of numbers and sabermetrics. I don't know if that had to play into it or not. I know that there was a lot of good free agents out there on the market this year. I don't know if I'm going to point to one thing.

"I've thought it over, because when my option got turned down by the Angels ... first of all, I thought there would be a decent chance that I'd go back. And after it got turned down, there wasn't one bit of thought in my head that said, 'I might have to accept a minor league deal late in the offseason.' I wasn't excepting to get a multi-year deal, but I was expecting to get a major league deal somewhere in the one-year [range] at ... I didn't know exactly what it was going to be, but you know, regardless of what happens, like I said, maybe there was a little bit of frustration or uncertainty of what was going to happen. I knew I was going to be patient."

Where does Murphy fit in? That's an interesting question, because the Red Sox appear to be set in the outfield with projected starters Rusney Castillo in left, Jackie Bradley Jr. in center and Mookie Betts in right, with Chris Young and Brock Holt as backups.

Murphy might be insurance in case Castillo craters in spring training and isn't deemed worthy of a spot on the 25-man roster to start the season. If Castillo doesn't start the season at Triple-A Pawtucket, then Murphy would essentially be competing for the final roster spot with Travis Shaw, who is coming off a solid rookie season (.274/.331/.491 in 65 games) and is needed in case the Hanley Ramirez experiment at first base blows up in the face of the Red Sox.

"I think just like all places, there could be opportunity," Murphy said. "How that works itself out, I don't know. I know that there's a lot I need to do, but I'm prepared to work hard and see what happens.

"I didn't want to sign with a team to plan on being with another team. So my first priority is to be here. But obviously, whether it's here or throughout baseball, a lot of different things happen throughout the course of the month. So like I said, my goal is to be here, and if not, hopefully I'll be on a major league team somewhere. But I'm here to work hard and hopefully be a member of the Boston Red Sox."

Murphy is a valuable left-handed bat, having faced right-handed pitchers in 365 of his 391 plate appearances last season for the Angels and Cleveland Indians as he hit .283 with 10 home runs and 50 RBIs. In his 10 seasons in the majors with the Red Sox, Rangers, Indians and Angels, he's hit .274 with a .765 OPS.

It's a homecoming for Murphy, who was selected by the Red Sox with the 17th overall pick in the 2003 draft, then traded to the Rangers in 2007 in the deal that brought closer Eric Gagne to the Red Sox.

"It's really surreal," said Murphy, who reportedly will receive a base salary of $2 million if he makes Boston's major league roster. "When we first had contact with the Red Sox, there was a lot of good feelings. There's a lot of sentimental feelings, even if I didn't spent a lot of time with the Red Sox at the big-league level (24 at-bats in 23 games), just through all my minor league memories, through just random things. My oldest daughter was born in Boston when I was playing in Pawtucket. Whether it's being down here -- my wife and I got engaged during spring training in Fort Myers in 2004 -- just a lot of great on-field memories with the guys."