PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Johan Santana has a heat balm that can make you feel like you're resting on the planet Mercury, and before Daniel Murphy went out on a back practice field Wednesday morning to resume his quest of mastering the position of second base, he slathered some of the substance on his knees.
It just so happened that the first drill that New York Mets instructor Tim Teufel asked him to do was to field grounders on the infield grass of Practice Field 3 ... kneeling. "My knees are burning!" Murphy barked, for the first time.
A morning sun was rising, the infield grass was still damp from the first watering of the day, and Murphy was a human cup of coffee, chattering happily through his work, grounder to grounder. "Here we go!" he said, leaning forward, glove extended.
For Murphy, playing second base is like filling a dishwasher: It's work. Not everything fits perfectly, with his particular abilities squeezing awkwardly into the corners of the position. But Ike Davis is the Mets' first baseman and David Wright is the third baseman and Jason Bay is the left fielder. Murphy is regarded by some rival evaluators as one of the Mets' best pure hitters, but if he's going to play regularly, he needs to play second base. This is why he was out here on the half-field in the Mets' spring training complex, taking ground balls. Jordany Valdespin, a 24-year-old infielder, worked alongside him, but most of Teufel's instruction was aimed at Murphy.