Murphy Maneuvers for Strong Season

In a tough year for the St. Lucie Mets, coaches and observers look for bright spots emanating from a squad of young players. As performance can sometimes take precedence over statistics at this level, players like Murphy know how they piece together consistent performances can dictate a season's success. Inside Pitch revisited the St. Lucie third baseman to discuss his season's progression.

Daniel Murphy cleared himself of nagging injury and prepped for a quick start as he entered 2007. He struggled through the first two weeks as he hit just .150. As April warmed, so did his bat. He recovered to end the month with a .250 average.

The following weeks brought more fortune and Murphy raked his way to a .300 average in May (he has since slid back to .290). Aside from his batting average, he achieved more stability in his approach at the plate. Yet while his numbers have increased, he is not fully content with his play.

"So far I've been moderately successful to my own standards. I think I could be doing better," he said. "It's about confidence and I feel confident right now. I feel like I'm going to get my pitch and hit hard. I've been doing that as of late, my hits have just been right at guys."

His standards may be high, but he has not lacked the skills to execute what he does best: spray the ball to the opposite field. Right-handed pitchers shy away from busting him inside and disallow him from pulling the ball. That is okay with Murphy, who from the left side of the plate, has a natural swing to the left field gap. As a young left-handed hitter, this trait bodes well for his future. However, there are still characteristics with room to grow.

Murphy is as smooth of a hitter as any on the roster, yet what he lacks is mature patience at the plate. He admits he steps to the plate waiting for his pitch, and regardless of when it comes, he is swinging. That approach leaves little room for him to work deep counts and draw walks – he has just ten in 41 games.

"Once I started thinking about my pitch, when I get it, I'm looking to hit it hard," he said. "Whether it's a hit or not, what am I supposed to do. If I went in there and started taking more pitches, I figure I'd get more walks. But I'm up there to find my pitch and hit it.

While Murphy has excelled at hitting his way on base, he will need more power if he intends to stay in the five-hole of the order. He has just nine extra-base hits this year, with zero home runs. Historically, he is not a home run hitter. Yet, his slot in the order dictates more power.

"Home runs are going to come if I keep hitting the ball hard. If I can keep hitting to the gaps, the home runs will come. If I hit a couple here and there, that's fine. But what I'd like to do is keep hitting doubles and drive guys in," he explained.

Although his power numbers may not jump off the page, his effectiveness against southpaws is a trait that could carry him a long way. His average remains on par against lefties as righties. He continues to adapt to the challenges and differences that lefties present. Most notably, he quickly recognized the lack changeups he receives. He quickly eliminates the changeup when he steps into the box and thus places the pitcher at a disadvantage.

"Lefties, I've noticed, do not throw lefty-lefty changeups. Also, a lot of them, when they throw, they only command one side of the plate which is usually middle-in to me. So I set up to hit it back up the middle or slight pull. I've been fortunate to hit with success against lefties. I eliminate one pitch and they come in my wheel house," he said.

Lastly, on the other side of the field, Murphy continues to fine tune his glove work. His 11 errors lead the team. He dedicates time each day to his hot corner position. His footwork tests him as he seeks consistency in fielding plays both routine and difficult.

"Every error I've made has been pretty legit. Most of it is my footwork and fielding the ball with the right steps, then setting myself to make a strong throw. My defense is not quite as far along as my offense, but I work on them equally hard," he detailed.

This could be a pivotal year for the 22-year-old Murphy. He is completely healthy for the first time as a professional and is geared for a watershed year. His total compliment of tools still needs marked improvements, but with everyday playing tim,e Murphy will receive the opportunities.

As he looks forward, "I'd also like to get better each month, get more consistent on the routine plays. I want to drive in more runs each month and then hopefully get everything clicking and reach a strong peak through the summer," he closed.

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