Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Murphy prepared to take backseat
By Adam Rubin
Ike Davis' cheerleaders include the player likely to be dislodged from first base by Monday's promotion of the highly regarded prospect.
Daniel Murphy, who had been anointed the Opening Day first baseman until a right knee injury during the final week of spring training forced him to the disabled list, indicated he would readily accept a lower-profile role once his rehab is complete.
"Obviously they thought Ike was the best option. And I think he probably is the best option," Murphy told ESPNNewYork.com by telephone from Port St. Lucie, Fla. "He swung the bat well last night, as he did here. He's a guy who has played the position before. I think he's going to swing the bat really well, to tell you the truth."
Where does that leave Murphy?
"It leaves me in the same spot as when I show up every day -- trying to find a way to help the team win," Murphy said. "If that happens to be maybe spelling Ike if he's playing well, or maybe a pinch-hit role, they're going to hopefully put me in a position to help the team win.
"Listen, if he's swinging the bat well and we've got a chance to win a pennant, [manager] Jerry [Manuel] has to run the best nine out there. He's already proven he's going to do that. And then I've pinch hit before. I did it my first year up. I did it last year. I've been able to have some success. If that turns out to be my role, then that's what I'll do.
"It's one of those things, unfortunately I got hurt, but that's something that's out of my control. What I can control is trying to get healthy and helping the team win."
Davis, 23, went 2-for-4 with an RBI in his major league debut Monday against the Chicago Cubs. Assuming the 2008 first-round pick takes off, which is the hope, there are different perspectives within the organization on what role Murphy should assume.
One distinct possibility: Murphy plays second base in the minors, which he did in the Arizona Fall League in 2008, to gain the skill as a hedge against underperformance by Luis Castillo. Murphy also could have a more balanced role in the minors, in which he sees action at first base and the outfield as well to prepare for a utility role. Or he could go directly to the Mets' bench.
Had Murphy been healthy Opening Day and had the success the organization envisioned, Davis likely would still be at Triple-A Buffalo, where he hit .364 with two homers in 10 games. Instead, with Murphy on the DL, Davis was promoted a day after ineffective first baseman Mike Jacobs was designated for assignment.
"Well, yeah, it's frustrating," Murphy said about the injury creating an opening. "But I got my first start in the big leagues because Marlon Anderson got hurt. Unfortunately, it's a part of baseball."
Murphy suffered a Grade 1 sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee during a rundown the final week of spring training. He is now running without a brace, although not yet cutting. He also is taking ground balls while moving laterally, and taking on-field batting practice at the Mets' Florida complex. The final steps are cutting and then getting in rehab games, although Murphy could not place a timetable on those hurdles.
"It's coming along pretty good," said Murphy, who hit .266 with 38 doubles, 12 homers and 63 RBIs in 508 at-bats last season. "It's taking a little longer than I thought when it originally happened. Any pain I have right now is completely tolerable. It's just they obviously don't want me to come back until it feels the way it's supposed to. Every day it gets better. It's not like sharp pains or anything. It's just kind of a dull stretching of my knee. I feel it very infrequently now, especially here the last couple of days. Now it's just, 'When can I cut and be able to tell 100 percent without having to worry about it?'
"I was really encouraged by the work I did today. I took ground balls. It was the first time I was taking ground balls for probably about a week. I was able to go side to side and I was completely pain-free, so I was pretty encouraged by today."
Murphy said he could will himself into becoming a quality second baseman, outfielder or utility player. Despite limited minor league exposure, he was thrown into left field the past two seasons with the Mets. That work subsequently was abandoned and Murphy moved exclusively to first base.
"I was given more than enough ample opportunity to play well there last year," Murphy said about left field. "I didn't, and it was costing us ballgames. So they made a decision to go with someone else, which I think was right. I think eventually if I have to do so, I can play a good outfield or another position. That's going to be something that's always going to be up to Jerry's discretion.
"It's just more bullets in my gun. And if I'm able to play other positions, it gives the manager more flexibility. Maybe it might give me a few more at-bats."
Davis, for his part, has complimented Murphy's treatment of him during spring training. The prospect insisted the relationship wasn't uncomfortable, despite Davis been billed as the organization's first baseman of the future.
"The first couple of days he showed me around -- what I needed to do, where I needed to be," Davis said. "It's never really been awkward."
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.