WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Washington second baseman Daniel Murphy thinks he will be ready for the start of the season, even with his lack of playing time in the World Baseball Classic.
Nationals manager Dusty Baker is taking a wait-and-see approach.
“You can talk all you want,” Baker said. “He wasn’t comfortable when he left and he didn’t get many ABs.”
Murphy went hitless in six at-bats for gold medal-winning Team USA. Only Alex Bregman and Josh Harrison got fewer at-bats on the American squad.
“I treated it the same way I would the regular season - show up to the ballpark ready to play every day and if you’re in the lineup, be prepared and if you’re not, be prepared if your name is called in the middle of the game,” Murphy said.
Murphy, who turns 32 on April 1, doesn’t think he needs that many at-bats to be ready for the start of the season.
Injuries limited Murphy to 10 exhibition at-bats in 2013 and 17 in 2015, years when he hit .286 and .281 once regular season play began. But he got 50 at-bats last year during his first spring training with the Nationals, and he set career highs with a .347 batting average, 25 homers and 104 RBIs.
Before heading to the WBC, Murphy had only three hits in 17 Grapefruit League at-bats.
While Murphy didn’t get many game at-bats during his time with Team USA, he was able to ready himself defensively.
“I was able to take a lot of ground balls,” he said. “I talked with (Detroit second baseman) Ian Kinsler quite a bit about defense, which is really cool because I know what a great defender he is so I picked his brain a lot.”
Murphy arrived back in South Florida late Thursday night, but was held out of Friday’s split-squad lineups. Baker was going to play Murphy, but the eight-year veteran requested a day off to re-acclimate to the eastern time zone following his transcontinental flight.
After Friday, the Nationals have six more Grapefruit League games, followed by two exhibitions against the Boston Red Sox - March 31 at Nationals Park and April 1 at the U. S. Naval Academy.
Murphy and Baker also discussed the possibility of some extra at-bats in minor league games should he still not feel quite right at the plate. Murphy took similar at-bats last spring.
“Murph knows himself pretty good and I know him pretty well,” Baker said. “We’ll do whatever it takes to try to get him reps and still try to keep everybody else ready.”
Washington pitcher Tanner Roark, a teammate of Murphy on Team USA, also returned to the team on Friday.
Roark struggled in his first WBC appearance, allowing three earned runs in 1 1/3 innings against the Dominican Republic in front of a crowd of 37,446 at Marlins Park that generated a noise level he said was “absolutely insane.” He then blanked Japan on two hits in four innings in Team USA’s semifinal win.
“It will prepare me for games from here on out,” Roark said.
Saturday, Roark pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowed one earned run and struck out five against the Houston Astros.
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