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Daniel Murphy and the long road back to the Washington Nationals’ lineup...

They were hoping for Opening Day this winter, but it’s taken a bit longer for Daniel Murphy to make his way back to the Nats’ lineup...

MLB: Washington Nationals at San Diego Padres Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Daniel Murphy was positive about the speed of his recovery from offseason knee surgery when he spoke to reporters about his progress back in mid-December.

“Harvey Sharman was able to come down to Jacksonville, our head trainer, and take a look at my knee,” Murphy said.

“He said it’s in a really good position right now, being eight weeks in, so I was really pleased to hear that, kind of a validation of some of the work that I’ve done.”

Murphy, who had cartilage debridement and a microfracture surgery, said he spoke to LA Dodgers’ third baseman Justin Turner, who underwent a similar procedure, about what to expect from the rehab process.

“He’s given me a ton of assurances that if we’re sensible about this and treat it the right way, it should hopefully be healthy.”

MLB: Spring Training-Washington Nationals at Houston Astros Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Murphy declined to discuss a timetable for his return at that point, telling reporters, “... it’s going to be a progression. I don’t want to put any timetables on it, because if you miss them, you guys get really fishy when stuff like that’s happened.”

At the same event, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said he knew Murphy would return when he was ready.

“He knows himself and he’s a veteran player who’s not going to out there before he’s ready to go out there, and we feel confident about that,” Rizzo explained.

Davey Martinez told reporters at the Winter Meetings that he hoped to have Murphy back in the lineup for Opening Day, as opposed to the start of Spring Training.

“[Murphy] feels like he’s going to be ready for Opening Day and that’s what we’re pushing for,” Martinez said, and provided, “... there are no bumps in the road, hopefully we get him back for that.

“If we don’t we’ve got pieces to keep us afloat till he gets back, but I can’t wait till he’s fully healthy.”

With Wilmer Difo (35 games), Howie Kendrick (33), and Adrian Sanchez (2), the Nationals have a combined .265/.307/.408 line, with 14 doubles, three triples, five home runs, and a total of 1.1 fWAR out of second base this season, while they’ve waited for Murphy to feel healthy enough to step back into the major league lineup.

Martinez told reporters this weekend that after ten games in which Murphy went 9 for 37 with two doubles, two home runs, six walks, and four Ks, he might be ready for the next step, rejoining the Nats, and making his 2018 debut with Washington on the road against American League teams in New York and Toronto.

Murphy was at Nationals Park this weekend going through his normal pregame routine with everyone watching to see how he’d progressed.

“I wanted to see where he’s at and get him here, and he looked pretty good,” Martinez said.

“He played two days in a row, so we didn’t want him to do much, but we wanted to get him back here. So, we’ll see how he feels [on Monday], and we’ll touch base, and see where we go from there.”

Both Martinez and Rizzo said they felt at this point it was more mental than physical for the infielder, who needed to trust that his knee was ready.

“There’s nothing wrong with the knee,” Martinez said Saturday, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.

“He knows that. It’s a mind-over-matter deal now. We talked today, and for me it’s: once he gets here and starts playing, I think he’ll forget about everything and just go out and play. But that’s totally up to him and what he feels comfortable [doing].”

“He’s been hitting a lot, so the hitting portion of it should be fine,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies last Wednesday.

“The lateral movement on defense is something that we’re concentrating on,” Rizzo added, “... and the deceleration when he runs is something that we’re concentrating on.

“When he’s in burst mode and sprint mode he’s fine, it’s the deceleration that he’s worried about.”

“He’s got to trust that the knee is healthy,” the GM continued, “... because your mind will not allow the knee to perform at its optimal level until your instincts kick in and you have to do it naturally.

“We’re just waiting for that,” Rizzo said.

“I think it’s repetitions and strengthening of the knee. Just playing a full nine-inning game is an accomplishment, and once he does that back-to-back days, and can handle the grind of a season then I think we’ll see him back.”

Handling the grind of designated hitter duties for a week would be an easy way to work Murphy back in slowly.

We’ll see if he’s back in the lineup when the Nationals release it later today. Murphy vs the Yankees has a nice ring to it.