Murphy working hard at first

SURPRISE, AZ - Even as a fifth-round pick, Clark Murphy exceeded expectations with the AZL Rangers last summer, batting .358 with 11 extra-base hits in 25 games. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the 19-year-old for a Q&A during his first Spring Training.

First baseman Clark Murphy hasn't been in Rangers' organization for long, but he is already one of the system's top corner infield prospects.

The 19-year-old was selected in the fifth round of the 2008 MLB Draft, and he went on to post excellent numbers with the AZL Rangers last summer. With the rookie ball club, Murphy went 34-for-95 [.358] with seven doubles, three triples, one home run and 21 runs batted in.

Though he was thought to be a fairly raw talent out of high school, Murphy continued to impress against generally older competition during the 2008 Fall Instructional League.

Lone Star Dugout caught up with Murphy for a Q&A session during our recent trip to Surprise.

Jason Cole: You've played with the Low-A club in every game so far?

Clark Murphy: So far I've been on the Low-A squad.

Cole: When did you get out here to Surprise?

Murphy: I got here on February 23rd. That was the first day I started practicing out there.

Cole: So that was about three weeks before camp started?

Murphy: Yeah, it was about two and a half weeks.

Cole: What kind of stuff were you doing out here before everyone officially reported?

Murphy: We were – on a daily basis – stretching, conditioning, batting practice, and individual and team defense work. So it was good stuff.

Cole: How much did it help you to come out here early and get a lot of one-on-one time with coaches?

Murphy: Any time you can be on a field like this, and any time you have a coaching staff like we do, it's a good thing. Just practicing, conditioning in cleats on grass is nice. It's a good thing – a positive being out here.

Cole: Tell me a little about your offseason. What kind of stuff did you do to get into shape for your first full season?

Murphy: First of all, it was about the longest I've ever been away from baseball, so it was kind of strange. But when it came about time, I think I started lifting in about mid-November. I really got to lifting hard.

After Christmas is when I started working out at a place called Athlete's Edge. I was able to work with guys like Xavier Nady and that was exciting to be around him – see the way big leaguers work. I was doing stuff I know will help me in the long run – working on balance and core. Not just brute strength, but being able to do flexibility and all sorts of other things. That was nice.

I went by my high school some to get ground balls, but all along I planned on coming out a little early just to make sure I was in the right shape that I wanted to be.

Cole: You had your high school season, went almost straight to the AZL, got a couple weeks off, then went to instructs after that. Were you a little bit drained after that much baseball?

Murphy: I was after instructs. The weather – obviously playing out in 105 every day. Especially out here, this Arizona sun kind of drains you. But it was definitely something that I really enjoyed. Even though it was long days, there's still nothing better.

Cole: How did you feel you performed at instructs coming off a very good rookie league season?

Murphy: You know, I we worked on a lot of things and I came out better. In that aspect, I'm really happy I went to it. I'm able to take where I left off out here, and so far I've been swinging it out here pretty well. We worked on timing, and I'm seeing the ball better as a result and my power is starting to show a little better in games.

Cole: Did you guys work on anything else out there on instructs?

Murphy: Defense. Ground balls every single day. Glove work was a big thing. And baserunning. Pretty much a lot of the mental aspects of where you're supposed to be on balls in the gap and balls down the line. Mostly they had me doing one-on-one work on ground balls, football, and throwing. All sorts of stuff. Anything you could think of, we were doing at instructs.

Cole: How much first base had you played coming into your AZL season?

Murphy: In high school I split time. I've actually been a first baseman most of my life. My senior year in high school, I wanted to spend more time in the outfield because I thought it would open up more chances in the draft – being an outfield. And it did. I was actually drafted as an outfielder even though I haven't played an inning out there yet. But I split probably about 50-50 my senior year.

Cole: When I talked to you during the AZL you said you thought you'd get some reps in the outfield at instructs. I'm guessing that didn't end up happening?

Murphy: No, but whatever the organization thinks is best for me, I'm going to trust them.

Cole: How much better do you feel at first base right now than you did coming into professional ball?

Murphy: Much better. I mean, my all-around game, once I got into pro ball – my knowledge, I wish I would've had half of that in high school. I couldn't even imagine what I would have been in high school. It's just the coaching and the overall ability to learn out here is amazing.

Cole: What's it like seeing these pitchers in pro ball. I'm sure you didn't see a whole lot of pitchers in high school that throw a plus breaking ball and even mix in some good changeups now and then.

Murphy: Well, when your timing is off and you're not seeing the ball, it's almost kind of pointless being up there. But when you're seeing it and doing things right, it's a battle, but it is definitely not impossible. It's a lot of fun. I feel like I'm seeing it pretty well.

Every day I think to myself that I want to try and find a pitcher – and I'm still looking to find a guy who I think when I go back to the dugout that I had no chance. And I haven't faced a guy like that. Even on a bad day, I still look at it like, ‘I can still hit this guy.' That's a positive, to feel that way at least.

Cole: Do you have any idea where you'll be playing when camp breaks?

Murphy: I'm hoping to break with Hickory. But again, I can only do what I can do. Other guys are ahead of me, but my goal is to break with Hickory and play a full season.

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