As left-hander Tim Murphy pitched in Corpus Christi on September 3, he was just trying to wrap up his regular season.
It had been a strong regular season. In his first year as a reliever, the UCLA product posted a 2.61 earned-run average in 58.2 innings between High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco.
Murphy was set to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, where his career as a lefty reliever could take another step forward and he could inch closer to the big leagues.
Unfortunately, in that late-season outing, he felt the dreaded pain in his arm.
"We were down in Corpus Christi at the end of the year and I was pitching," Murphy said. "I threw the eighth inning and was fine. And then in the ninth, I started noticing some pain in my elbow and it kept getting worse on every pitch.
"I got through the inning and then that was it. I got an MRI and it showed some tears. Surgery was the best option for me."
Though the hurler was able to pitch two scoreless innings against the Hooks, his velocity gradually declined during the outing. His last few fastballs registered in the upper-70s.
"I had never had that type of pain before," he said. "I have had the normal stuff that you throw through, but this was different."
Murphy eventually flew to Arlington and underwent Tommy John surgery with team doctor Keith Meister on September 22. Murphy is now in Arizona, where he expects to be rehabbing full-time through the offseason.
"I have just been doing the basic stuff," said Murphy about his rehab process thus far. "I'm trying to get my range of motion back and get it back to normal. It takes about four-to-six weeks to get everything back to normal there."
The surgery comes at a bad time for Murphy, who obviously is no longer participating in the Arizona Fall League. He has been replaced by fellow relief prospect Fabio Castillo.
Still, Murphy knows a number of pitchers who have had successful recoveries from the surgery, and he prefers to remain positive about his future.
"You hear about [Tommy John] all the time these days," said Murphy. "I feel like everyone has played with someone who has had Tommy John, so you always hear things here and there.
"You just have to stay positive. The timetable for returning is a long and tedious one, but like I said, you have to grow and learn from this while keeping a good attitude. The mind will take you a long way."
Murphy's future prospects with the Rangers organization appeared in jeopardy when he posted a 6.80 ERA as a starting pitcher at Bakersfield in 2009––his first full season of professional ball.
The former third-round pick says he came into Spring Training this season with a new mindset.
"I just trusted myself," he said. "I was more deceptive, more committed, and more motivated."
Murphy also underwent a pair of changes. First, he was moved to the bullpen out of Spring Training. And a couple weeks into this season with Bakersfield, the Rangers had him try a lower arm slot to create more deception and natural movement on his fastball.
The lower arm angle not only improved deception and movement, but also fastball velocity. After working in the 86-88 mph range in '09, Murphy began sitting at 88-93 mph after his promotion to Frisco this year.
Murphy had a 3.25 ERA at the time of his promotion to Double-A, but he had more walks (24) than strikeouts (23) in 36 innings pitched.
The numbers took off in the Texas League. In 22.2 innings with Frisco, Murphy yielded 19 hits while walking only four and striking out 23, leading to a 1.59 ERA. He was throwing strikes, missing bats with his breaking ball, and getting ground balls with the natural sink on his fastball.
The 23-year-old believes the late-season success was a product of getting more comfortable with his new mechanics.
"I felt like I was repeating my mechanics very well as the season went along," Murphy said. "I was throwing from a more natural arm slot and I felt that was crucial."
As Murphy reflects upon his 2010 performance, he sees plenty of positives. And that only makes the timing of the injury more difficult to swallow.
"I felt like I had a decent year," he said. "I felt like things were finally starting to click, and I finished on a strong note. But I was able to do the small things and didn't try to do too much. I was pitching with high confidence and trusted myself, so the timing of the injury is kind of a bummer."
Murphy staying positive despite injury
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