Murphy finding success in bullpen

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – A new arm slot and a transition to the bullpen have helped left-hander Tim Murphy post a 2.81 ERA in 41.2 innings between High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco this season. Lone Star Dugout sat down with the 23-year-old for a Q&A session.

Tim Murphy entered the 2009 campaign as one of the more intriguing left-handed pitching prospects in a deep Texas Rangers system.

He exited it with a 6.80 earned-run average and 184 hits allowed in 135 innings. Murphy's fastball, which had previously sat in the low-90s, dipped into the mid-to-upper-80s range. He often worked up in the zone and had trouble commanding his secondary stuff.

Knowing some adjustments needed to be made, the Rangers moved their former third-round pick to the bullpen out of Spring Training this year. And almost a month into the regular season, they had Murphy experiment with a lower arm slot.

With a 2.81 ERA and a recent promotion to Double-A, Murphy's low three-quarters slot appears to be paying dividends. The switch has allowed him to get more sink on his fastball while creating some extra deception in his delivery.

On Thursday night in San Antonio, Murphy threw his sinking fastball between 88-93 mph––up from the 86-88 he showed earlier this season in Bakersfield. Murphy's command was also improved, as he worked down in the zone and attacked both sides of the plate relatively well.

The UCLA product allowed just 27 hits in 36 innings at High-A Bakersfield this season. But he walked more batters [24] than he struck out [23].

However, in his first four appearances with the RoughRiders, Murphy is showing improvement across the board. He has tossed 5.2 scoreless innings, walking two and fanning eight.

Murphy recorded two of his three strikeouts Thursday with his 79-81 mph breaking ball. The new delivery has caused his once big-breaking curve to morph into sort of a slurve with more sharp side-to-side action.

Now a full-time reliever, the 23-year-old may no longer have the upside the Rangers envisioned when they selected him in the 2008 MLB Draft. But he appears to be developing into a nice left-handed prospect out of the bullpen, particularly if he continues to show progress.

Lone Star Dugout caught up with the 6-foot-2, 190-pound hurler after Thursday night's game.

Jason Cole: You're working with a new arm slot this year, slightly lower from your old one. Tell me about the transition and what you did.

Tim Murphy: Yeah, it has gone down a little bit. I'd say it's probably more toward my natural slot. A couple of the coaches noticed when I was throwing long toss and stuff like that––they noticed my arm angle was a little bit lower. And then when I'd get on the mound, it would get pretty high and cause the ball to be pretty straight.

It was tough to repeat that kind of thing. I got a little bit more movement on the lower arm angle. It's also a little bit harder to see. It has been working out pretty well for me.

Cole: Had you ever thrown from that low three-quarters angle in a game before this season?

Murphy: It's tough to say. I feel like in college––from watching video and stuff like that––it was a little bit lower. But for some reason, for the last year or year and a half in pro ball, it just kind of got higher and higher. It has been getting it down toward there a little bit more. I'm totally comfortable with it now.

Cole: And you've gotten some of your velocity back, sitting upper-80s, low-90s and touching 93 mph tonight. Has the new arm angle helped that along?

Murphy: Yeah, it has a little bit. I don't know where that has come from, but that's obviously nice. It obviously helps out a little bit. Like I said, the biggest thing I've noticed with that is the movement I've been getting on the ball. With the movement, it's a lot more difficult to square up a ball.

Cole: The new arm angle has caused your breaking ball to kind of morph into sort of a slider at times. Is it a different grip or the same pitch?

Murphy: No, it's the exact same pitch. I hold it the same way, throw it the same way. It's just a little bit more slurvy with it. I wouldn't necessarily call it a slider, and I wouldn't call it a curve. It has been working well for me and I can't complain.

Cole: At what point did you move the arm angle down? I know you were still pretty much over the top during Spring Training.

Murphy: Yeah, I went through Spring Training and then a little bit into Bakersfield, Mark Connor came into town. Something obviously needed to change. Hitters were getting too good of looks––especially left-handed hitters.

Being a left-handed pitcher, you've got to be able to get left-handed guys out. So it has been something we worked on probably about a month into the season. Ever since then, it has been a work in progress.

Cole: In addition to the new arm slot, you've also had to make the transition to the bullpen this year. How was that adjustment?

Murphy: Starting and relieving are two totally different things, I feel like. I think they're two totally different mindsets. Coming out of the bullpen, you've got to be ready to go right then. You've got to be throwing strikes. You have to be commanding your pitches. Like I said, you have to be ready to go right out of the gates.

When you're starting, you have a little bit more flexibility. You're trying to do a little bit more different things, I guess you could say. You're trying to establish both sides of the plate and that kind of thing. Coming out of the bullpen, that stuff is already done by the starter. So you're out there pretty much to just get outs. That's the biggest thing I've noticed.

Cole: Tonight's game had a big crowd and a nice, lively atmosphere when you entered in the later innings. How do you like that adrenaline rush out of the ‘pen?

Murphy: Those are the fun ones, man. You gotta love those ones. It was a close game at 3-2. You can't think about that kind of stuff though––you have to take it one pitch at a time. You have to stay focused at the task on hand, go in there get the leadoff guy, and all the baseball cliches that they say. But they're all true and that's what turns into a successful outing.

Cole: You've been pitching well since your promotion to Double-A. What are your thoughts on it?

Murphy: I feel real comfortable. The biggest thing is not trying to do too much. You have to be confident in yourself. Those are the two biggest things. So far I've been able to do that. I've been able to throw strikes, keep the walks down, and that kind of thing. That has obviously resulted in some good outings.

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