Another day in the World Baseball Classic. Another day without Daniel Murphy in the lineup for Team USA in the WBC.
Max Scherzer lamented the fact that he couldn’t participate in the WBC because of a stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger, which held the defending NL Cy Young award-winner out of even Grapefruit League action until Tuesday afternoon.
Is Murphy regretting the decision to participate in the fourth WBC after he watched most of the action from the bench?
Murphy, the runner-up for the National League’s MVP last season, got 17 at bats in for the Washington Nationals in Grapefruit League action before he headed to Miami and Team USA’s bench.
Over the course of the two-plus week tournament, Murphy played in two exhibition games and two WBC games, going 0 for 6 with two Ks in his two starts as the DH for the United States, and 1 for 13 overall during his time with Team USA.
Dusty Baker told reporters on a couple of occasions over the course of the tournament that he was concerned about the relative inactivity setting Murphy back for the start of the season.
Once he returns to the Nationals, Murphy will have a little over a week to prepare for the start of the 2017 campaign.
“That’s not long enough,” Baker said last week, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“He didn’t have his stroke together when he left. Can’t get it sitting, and you can’t get it really taking BP. You gotta get some live pitching. God forbid if something happens - he gets hurt, or something early - then shoot, who knows when he’ll get his stroke. The main thing is, you can’t force-feed the time, because then you’re risking injury.”
Baker expressed similar concerns about Tanner Roark, who made a relief appearance in a March 11th WBC game and didn’t pitch again until he started the semi-final matchup with Japan on Tuesday night.
Roark he got his work in on the side while he waited for an opportunity.
Murphy, Baker said this week, was in a “a great state of mind” and interested in what the plan was for him once he returned to West Palm Beach and the Nationals’ Spring Training facilities.
Team USA’s skipper Jim Leyland was asked before the WBC Championship game against Puerto Rico about sticking with the hot bats, while players like the Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt, Murphy and others (Josh Harrison, Alex Bregman) were relegated to the bench.
“When did you decide what you were going to do and keep units together rather than try to play everybody?” a reporter asked.
“I think you try to be a little creative early in the tournament,” Leyland explained.
“Try to do some things with the lineup and guys playing. Then as it gets down to this point, I think you've just got to go with what you feel gives you your best shot.
“I think that's really important. That's kind of what I've done.
“As I mentioned last night, there is no question that Bregman and Harrison have gotten the short end of the stick. I apologize for that. So our little twist that we're putting in tonight, we're coming in from right field and we have two flag bearers carrying the flags, and that will be Harrison and Bregman. So we tried to put a little twist in there that would show our appreciation for what they've done.”
Harrison and Bregman reportedly declined to carry the flags before the game.
It will be interesting to hear what Murphy says if he does address the lack of playing time in the WBC once he returns to the Nationals, and more importantly, see how he makes up for lost time and reacts once he’s back to playing every day with the Nats with so little time to ramp things up for the start of the regular season.
Murphy was, however, part of the first Team USA roster to win the WBC. So there’s that...