Oakland A's MLN: Murphy Working His Way Back

Like many of the Oakland A's young position players, Donnie Murphy has had a disappointing 2008 season. Expected to be the A's back-up infielder all season, Murphy struggled early in the year and lost his spot on the roster. Back with Sacramento, he is working hard for another shot. We have caught-up with Murphy and have news and notes from around the A's system inside...

When the Oakland A's traded back-up infielder Marco Scutaro last November, it was with the thought that Donnie Murphy would take over Scutaro's role with the team. Murphy had flashed a potent bat in 2007, hitting .326 with an 896 OPS in 45 games with Triple-A Sacramento and six homers in 42 games with the A's.

Things haven't gone according to plan for Murphy or the A's this season, however. Murphy got off to a decent start at the plate, collecting seven hits in 28 at-bats – including two homeruns – in April. He struggled badly in May, and was then placed on the disabled list with an inflamed right (throwing elbow).

"It was just one of those weird things where it got a little irritated. I have never dealt with anything like that before," Murphy said about his elbow.

"My arm and my body wasn't really responding to the treatment as quickly as I wanted it to. But it feels great now. I'm not worried about it anymore."

He returned a month later, but playing time was few and far between. On July 22, Murphy was designated for assignment by Oakland after hitting only .188 with three homers in 101 at-bats spread over 42 games.

Murphy says he learned a lot from his struggles with the A's this season.

"This is the first year that I really haven't started. It always takes time to learn to be a bench player and I just didn't get going, even when I was playing regularly," Murphy said.

"It was tough, but it is a learning experience and if I ever get the opportunity again – I hope I do – I will be ready for it this time. I'll prepare myself a little bit better."

The 2008 season has been a learning experience for all of the young A's players. The team got off to a strong start this year, only to see their season fall apart right before the All-Star break. Despite the A's recent struggles, Murphy sees better things for the green and gold in the future.

"It is tough, especially when you have a promising start like we did," Murphy said.

"There were a couple of moves, and not to say that those moves were bad or that they were what did it, but we are a young team and guys go through struggles and it's affected the whole team, especially the offense where it has been hard for us to score. We know that we have the hitters and the pitching to do it. This might not be the year, but hopefully the next few, it will be."

After clearing waivers, Murphy was sent to Triple-A Sacramento, where he has been in the everyday line-up since late July. After an up-and-down start, Murphy has put together a consistent stretch of strong offensive performances in August. Through Sunday, Murphy was batting .304 with three homers, 11 RBIs and an 893 OPS in August.

"I think just getting consistent at-bats was the key thing. I feel comfortable now and I feel like I am swinging at better pitches," Murphy said.

"I am still striking out a little bit, and I still want to cut down on that, but overall, I think I am having better at-bats."

News and Notes

* The Midland Rockhounds staged a monumental comeback on Monday night to earn a 12-9 win over Tulsa. Midland was down 9-4 going into the bottom of the eighth inning when their offense hit it in high gear. The inning began with a Tom Everidge single and a Myron Leslie two-run homer and continued through 12 batters. Eight runs crossed the plate in the frame. Leslie drove-in four runs, while Everidge had four hits and three RBIs. Everidge now has 108 RBIs on the season. Todd Donovan had three hits and scored three runs and Sean Doolittle, Justin Sellers and Anthony Recker all added two hits each. 2008 draft pick Justin Murray earned his second win since being promoted to Midland with an inning of scoreless relief and Jared Lansford worked a scoreless ninth to notch his fourth save for the Rockhounds. Lansford has yet to allow a run in 17 Double-A innings. He has struck-out 16, walked six and allowed eight hits.

* The A's and the Kane County Cougars have agreed to extend their affiliation agreement for two more seasons.

* The Cougars also announced on Monday that A's top 2008 draft pick Jemile Weeks will miss the rest of the year with a hip flexor injury that he sustained during Kane County's game at Wrigley Field. Weeks hit .297 with an 828 OPS and six stolen bases in 19 games before being injured. He won't need surgery, but he might miss the A's Instructional League.

* Kane County also announced that outfielder D.J. Hollingsworth has been placed on the voluntary retired list. The Bay Area native had signed with the A's as a minor league free agent earlier this season.

* Left-hander Carlos Hernandez left his start on Saturday after three innings with a left knee injury. Hernandez had thrown three scoreless innings in the start. He has a 2.63 ERA in 27.2 innings for the Kane County Cougars and a 6-0 record with a 2.15 ERA in 67 innings for the Cougars and the Vancouver Canadians this season.

* Starter Dana Eveland threw eight shut-out innings and Sacramento cruised to their 77th victory with a 7-1 win over Tacoma. Danny Putnam (15) and Aaron Cunningham (3) each homered for Sacramento. Gregorio Petit and Chris Denorfia each had two hits in the win. It was the River Cats' seventh win in a row. Their magic number is three.

* A's DH/1B Mike Sweeney began his rehab assignment with the Sacramento River Cats on Monday. He went 0-2 in Sacramento's victory over the Tacoma Rainiers. Sweeney is working his way back from knee problems.

* The A's made a trio of moves on Sunday night and Monday morning. Left-hander Dan Meyer was optioned back to Sacramento after allowing five runs in three innings of relief on Sunday. Right-hander Kirk Saarloos was recalled from Sacramento. Saarloos relieved right-hander Justin Duchscherer with two-outs in the third and worked 3.2 scoreless innings to earn the win in the A's 3-2 victory over Minnesota. Duchscherer left the A's game with hip pain. Saarloos allowed only three hits and he struck-out three in his impressive relief outing. To make room for Saarloos on the A's 40-man roster, first baseman Wes Bankston was designated for assignment.

* Travis Banwart struck-out eight in four innings, but he was hung with the loss on Monday for Stockton. Banwart allowed three runs on six hits and two walks. He was relieved by Craig Italiano, who worked two scoreless innings of relief. He struck-out three and walked one. Jose Fragoso (one inning) and Henry Rodriguez (two innings) also worked scoreless appearances. Rodriguez struck-out three and didn't allow a hit or a walk. He hasn't allowed a run in his last six innings of work.

* Infielder Jesus Guzman has begun his rehab assignment with the A's Rookie League club. Guzman has been sidelined for nearly two months with a strained quad. In two games with the Rookie A's, he has two hits in five at-bats, including a homer.

* Rookie A's outfielder and 2008 10th round pick Rashun Dixon hit his seventh homer of the season on Monday. The 17-year-old is batting .271 with 36 RBIs in 36 games for the A's Rookie League team.

* Vancouver right-hander Shawn Haviland struck-out 10 in four innings and the Canadians mounted a late rally to hold off Boise by a score of 6-5. Haviland allowed three runs on four hits and three walks. The Harvard alum has struck-out 43 in 39 innings. Dusty Napoleon hit his second homer, while Jason Christian and Dusty Coleman each had two hits.

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