New Outfielder Murphy is Looking to Rebound
Steve Eby | On 19, Feb 2014
The Cleveland Indians open the 2014 season with new expectations despite many questions. The Indians’ 25-man roster will look different than the group that won 92 games and lost the American League Wild Card game to the Tampa Bay Rays. While the roster may change and the expectations grow, Cleveland will need to answer many questions this spring before opening the season in Oakland on March 31. Today, we look at one of the Indians’ new players who will be trying to fill a role on the Tribe’s roster.
Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong—will go wrong. For new Tribe outfielder David Murphy, he is looking to rebound from a year where the law-of-his-own-last-name seemed to be the case.
“I think I kind of stepped out of who I was,” Murphy said of his subpar 2013 season. “As a player, you really need to stay within yourself and you need to continue to be yourself.”
Last season with the Texas Rangers, Murphy batted a career-low .220 and drove home 45 runs—his lowest total since becoming a regular outfielder in 2008. The season prior, Murphy batted .304 which was good enough for second-best in the Rangers potent lineup and 10th best in the American League.
“Think I tried to pull the ball a little more than I had in the past,” Murphy said. “I tried to hit the ball for a little bit more power than I had instead of just trying to be me.
Instead of just being himself, Murphy tried his hardest to make up for the giant holes that Texas suddenly had in their batting order.
“When you’re a hitter and you’re not performing up to your own standards, you do a lot of thinking and you break things down,” Murphy said. “I really think that with the loss of Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young I came into spring-training last year really ambitious…I tried to force myself to hit for power a little bit. It made my swing a little bit longer, and it didn’t produce the same kind of results. At the end of the day, I need to keep a small approach and hit some line drives up the middle.”
Murphy will now bring that small approach to Cleveland, as he signed a two-year, $11.5 million contract with a $7 million club option for 2016. The 32-year old veteran felt bittersweet about leaving the Rangers, but is excited for a new opportunity to play for the Indians.
“Texas is home,” Murphy said. “I had a really great situation down there. I really enjoyed my time there. But, all the same, I felt like it was time for a change. It’s not going to be the simplest thing-to just blink your eyes and go to a new team…but its (still) Major League Baseball. Whatever team you go to, it’s going to be the same kind of environment.”
With a proven track record as a career .275 hitter that averages 16 homeruns and 69 RBI per 162 games, the left-handed hitting Murphy has all but cemented his name as the Indians regular right fielder, especially against right-handed pitchers. This consistency would come as music to Murphy’s ears.
“I think, more than anything, I just like to be consistent,” Murphy said of playing multiple outfield spots. “There have been times where I have bounced around from left field to right field, but I think I would prefer to play one position consistently. But at the same time, it’s not like it’s a ‘must’. I’m a guy who has tried to be versatile his whole career and that’s not going to change.”
With right field firmly in his grasp, the only real question surrounding the veteran outfielder will be where he hits in Terry Francona’s batting order—a question that has plagued Murphy throughout his Major League career.
“In my career, I’ve hit all over the place,” Murphy said. “I feel like I’ve hit sixth or seventh more than anywhere and that’s probably around somewhere I will be on this team. A lot of lineups are full of interchanging pieces, and this is one of those. I’m ready for wherever they put me.
“I feel like this lineup one through nine is a solid group of guys who can really beat you. It makes it a lot of fun because you never know who the hero is going to be.”
The ‘unknown hero’ was a theme of the 2013 Indians team that streaked into the postseason as the first American League Wild Card team. Murphy’s Rangers, in the meantime, sat at home after losing a Wild Card playoff to the Tampa Bay Rays—the team that ultimately ended the Tribe’s season two nights later. Despite the loss in front of their home crowd, Murphy remained impressed with the Indians and reminded him of one of his former Texas teams.
“This group, watching them last year, reminded me of like the ’09 version of the Rangers with just how much fun they had and how much talent they had. There is a lot of potential here and I’m really excited about having a chance to win the Central… This team showed last year that they believe in themselves. They believe in one another. That’s the beginning. You have to stay healthy and you have to get a little luck now and then, but the talent is here.”
Murphy comes to the team as a veteran leader who is familiar with a few of the men in charge. Starting his career with the Boston Red Sox in 2006, Murphy played 23 games under Francona who also had current third base coach Brad Mills on his staff as well. Murphy is optimistic that Francona’s positive effect on the team can continue into the 2014 season as well.
“Obviously, Tito came in here last year and changed the atmosphere in the clubhouse,” Murphy said. “I’m very excited. When I was with him in Boston, I still didn’t get to know him very well. As a young guy, kind of on the outside looking in, I could see how much fun they had. Obviously, they were successful and won a few World Series titles. And then, they brought that culture here. They know how to breed winning, and they showed that last year. I’m just excited to step in and be a part of the fun. It’s going to be a great year.”
Photo: Jordan Bastian/MLB.com