5-foot-10, 165-pound lefty Chris Murphy -- a 2016 prospect out of Granada Hills (Calif.) -- knew that Neu was able to beat the odds and become a Major League pitcher despite his size, and that was one of the big reasons why, on Sept. 30, Murphy committed to Neu and the Bears.
“I kind of looked into him a little bit, and I know he’s a small guy, so he obviously had to work very hard to get there, and he knows how a smaller person like me can get there,” said Murphy.
Murphy committed to Cal a day after he got his offer, the Monday after he visited Cal for a weekend that included the Bears’ win against Colorado.
“We took a little tour of the campus, and then we went to the football game. Sunday, we had a little pitching camp and a scrimmage. I did OK there. I did pretty well. Then, Mike started talking to my parents the day after, on Monday, and gave the offer,” Murphy said. “I talked to my parents about it first, and I called an hour later and committed. I think I really was sold on it after the second day, when I saw their whole throwing program, and I really liked all the coaches.”
Murphy comes with more than just an 87-88 mph fastball. He also knows how to pitch. He throws a curveball, a change up, a slider, cutter and the ever-rare screwball.
“I kind of replace the change up with the screwball every now and then,” Murphy. “It’s effective against a right-hander, breaks away from them. My pitching coach just had me experimenting with pitches, and I just decided to shift my hand off my change up a little bit, and it had a lot of tail to it.”
Murphy shows a knack for fiddling with his pitches, but doesn’t do it without purpose.
“I can throw multiple curveballs,” Murphy said. “Depending on how I grip it and exactly where my wrist angle is, I can throw a 12-6 in the dirt or for a strike. I can change it depending on what I need to throw. I can make it like a loopier slider, and then I can throw a harder one. It depends on my finger grip and placement and wrist placement.”
It’s no accident that Murphy is such a technician on the mound.
“My pitching coach – Jim Wagner, in Valencia – he’s Trevor Bauer’s pitching coach,” said Murphy. “I learned one of my curveballs from Trevor, and I’ve really been working with Trevor on how to get my mechanics down and what I can do better – throw harder, throw more strikes, be more efficient – and ever since I was eight-years old, I’ve been going to Jim. I really picked up on biomechanics stuff, and really got interested in it, and really started researching all that.”
There are certainly worse pitchers to emulate than the former UCLA ace and current Cleveland Indians righty.
While Bauer has pitched in his fair share of big games, Murphy is already gaining a reputation as a clutch performer, one-hitting eventual CIF City Section Division I champion Birmingham on the final night of the regular season – one which Murphy started on Junior Varsity.
“On JV, I did pretty well. My first game was probably my worst game, but then, after that, I went 1-1, I got a no-decision, and my loss on JV was a 1-0 loss on an error – a squeeze error – and then I got a win against Cleveland and I got pulled up,” said Murphy. “I went with varsity to San Diego, because they were short on pitching, and then I pitched well in a game up there and I got permanently called up. I got my first win against Taft, got a no-decision against El Camino, lost against Chatsworth and then one-hit Birmingham and got a win in the San Fernando playoff game.”
Not bad for a first season.
“It was pretty cool watching them win,” Murphy said of Birmingham. “I was watching the game on TV, and not many people beat that team, so that was pretty cool.”
Murphy has a 3.5 GPA, and says that, while “AP courses can kind of take a toll,” he’s trying to raise his grades up even higher.
“Granada Hills is a school where a regular college prep class is equivalent to an AP class at other schools,” he said.
Murphy is taking AP Calculus and AP History.