When he talked to reporters on Friday, Washington Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker expressed some concern about the lack of game action for Nats’ second baseman Daniel Murphy in the World Baseball Classic.
Murphy appeared in two exhibition games for the U.S. and the WBC opener (0 for 4, 2 Ks as the DH), going 1 for 11 with 4 Ks overall in those three games, but he sat out of each of the next three completely.
Baker said he was worried that Murphy, who started the Spring 3 for 17 (.176 AVG) in Grapefruit League action, could be set back by the lack of reps at the plate while he was away.
“He didn’t have his stuff together when he left,” Baker told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman on Friday afternoon.
“And how are you gonna get yourself together if you’re not playing? Batting practice is one thing, but competition is something else. ... What can I do about it until Murph gets back? I just hope we can get him enough work.”
Baker was clear that he was not criticizing Team U.S.A. skipper Jim Leyland:
“It’s his team,” Baker said. “He has more than Murphy to care about. It’s his team, and Jim’s a good man and a good friend of mine. He’s doing his thing, trying to win games.”
Leyland talked before Friday’s WBC game against Puerto Rico about the difficult lineup decisions he has to make and about hearing and understanding the comments from managers around the game about their guys needing to play, responding generally to a question, not directly to Baker’s thoughts.
“Well, I think, first of all, you want to be respectful of those managers,” Leyland began.
“I understand some of the comments. I truly do. I know they want to get their players as many at-bats. I understand they want their pitchers to pitch.
“I understand they don't necessarily want them back to back.
“With all that being said, I'll make it simple, I'm doing the best I can. Maybe those guys four years from now, maybe they'll be managing this team, who knows.
“And I don't mean that sarcastically. It's not an easy job. You're trying to keep all the players happy. You're trying to get everybody in there.”
“You just can't get everybody,” Leyland continued.
“I can't give everybody exactly 20 at-bats every player, and I can't give every pitcher exactly seven innings. Doesn't work that way.
“So, as I said before, we're trying to win this thing and we're trying to send everybody back healthy and happy.”
Murphy was back in the lineup for the United States against Puerto Rico on Friday night, going 0 for 2 with two left on base after he grounded into a double play with two on and no one out in the second and grounded out to third in the fifth.
Leyland hit for Murphy in the seventh, bringing Paul Goldschmidt off the bench to face left-hander Alex Claudio.
The U.S. lost last night’s game, 6-5, in spite of a late rally that got them within one in the ninth, setting up a win-or-go-home matchup with the Dominican Republic in San Diego tonight.
Finding at bats for Murphy might be Baker’s job again after tonight, but either way, the runner-up for NL MVP last season will be back with the Nationals soon.