Q & A: Billy Murphy

Three, technically four, organizations, and the one constant with Billy Murphy is that he's still a top prospect. The Diamondbacks thought highly enough of Murphy that they essentially forced the Dodgers to go get him from the Marlins in 2004 when the Dodgers were after Steve Finley. Murphy began 2005 with many, including himself, expecting he would challenge for a spot in the D'Backs rotation. A hamstring injury in spring training nixed that idea, but Murphy refused to write the season off.

Now Murphy is making up the innings he missed during his month and a half off while rehabbing in the Arizona Fall League. How's it been going down here?

Bill Murphy: It's been going well, I'm having a lot of fun. I know what I'm down here to do, and I'm doing it. Okay, we'll bite, what are you down here to do?

Bill Murphy: I'm here to make pitches. It's pretty simple for me, I've got to throw strikes. So essentially you're working on the same things you were working on during the season?

Bill Murphy: Yeah, but with a little bit different philosophy. The Diamondbacks have preached to me that they want me to get guys out in three pitches or less, and I'm still doing that, but I've always been a strike out pitcher, so I've struggled sometimes with the idea of 'pitching to contact.' When I got down here the coaches told me the same things, three pitches, but the coaches down here said, 'Strike guys out in three pitches.' It's the same thing, throw strikes, but one of the reasons I think I've had success is that I'm back to really trying to strike guys out now, and it's just a little different way of pitching. So would you say you're a little more relaxed out there?

Bill Murphy: That's something that I've really been happy about, is the fact that I've been so relaxed on the mound down here. I'm really just having a lot of fun, joking around and talking with guys. Everybody down here is really good, some of the guys have been to the big leagues, and just about everybody will be eventually, so I think everybody down here is pretty relaxed.

For Murphy it really is all about throwing strikes. Coming into the 2005 season Murphy averaged nearly five walks per nine innings, but nobody has ever given up on him, because he's averaged nearly 10 strikeouts per nine innings. The stuff is there, with a low 90s fastball and devastating curve, but without the control, hitters have been able to sit on pitches and drill him. In 2005 Murphy appeared to be making strides, but he had a tendency to lose focus, and give up 'one big inning,' which would often be his downfall. In the AFL though things have been different. In his first three starts Murphy struck out 16 and walked just one in 14 innings. It was the type of performance the Diamondbacks have been waiting for, and the type that could give Murphy a shot at a regular spot in the rotation next season. During the season you talked about how having Koyie Hill behind the dish consistently helped you out, has having Miguel Montero, a fellow Diamondback, catching you helped you out?

Bill Murphy: Miggie's been doing a great job, and it's nice to have a guy who sort of knows your stuff. Especially with a pitch like the breaking ball, he knows where I want to throw it, and he knows I'm kind of working on it, so it helps sure. Are you on a pitch count?

Bill Murphy: Well, it's kind of tough for pitchers, because hitters can just go hit in a cage, but we're so tired at the end of the season that you just can't keep throwing during the month or so between the end of the season and the start of the AFL. So yeah, I'm up to 100 pitches now, so I'm pretty much back to normal, but they work you in slowly, because nobody wants to get anybody hurt. No lingering effects from the hamstring injury at the beginning of this season?

Bill Murphy: None at all, I feel great, really all over. I thought I might be a little tight after the time off, but my hammy feels good, my arm feels good, and I'm making up for the innings I lost at the beginning of the season, so I feel good. You talked about how relaxed you were, and I'm sure everybody's saying that you need to be, but isn't that hard to do in a league loaded with hitters?

Bill Murphy: It's a little funny. Everybody tells you to relax, and everybody tells you to throw strikes, but then you look at the lineup you're facing and it's literally an All-Star team. Nobody in this league is going to blow all these hitters away, but I have to believe that it's only going to get tougher. We all want to be in the big leagues, and in the big leagues the lineups are the same way. People say the ball travels here, and it does, but these hitters can hit the ball out of every ballpark. I played this past season in the Pacific Coast League, and in Tucson the ball travels a lot better than it does here, so I'm used to the ball carrying, and these hitters are good, but they're going to be even better in the Majors. If I throw strikes, and locate my pitches, I will have success. I know it.

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