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Finally, Daniel Murphy returns to the Washington Nationals’ lineup...

“It may not always look pretty, but my game has never really been pretty.” - Daniel Murphy on returning to the majors after offseason knee surgery

MLB: Washington Nationals at New York Mets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

He missed 63 games waiting for his surgically-repaired right knee to heal to the point where he could play in the majors once again, and after a ten-game rehab stint at Double-A Harrisburg, Daniel Murphy finally returned to the Washington Nationals’ lineup in the series opener against the New York Yankees on Tuesday night.

“Man, it’s very exciting,” Murphy told reporters before the first of two in Yankee Stadium.

“A little bit nervous as well,” he added. “It’s been about eight months since I played. I can’t say enough about the training staff, the strength staff, the coaching staff, ownership, [GM Mike Rizzo], being patient and the amount of work that was put in behind the scenes to get me back to playing. My hat’s off to them.

“I’m so thankful to be able to get out and play again, try to help this team win games.”

His manager was excited about the opportunity to pencil Murphy’s name into the lineup for the first time.

Davey Martinez said it felt, “really, really good,” to put Murphy back in for his first game of the 2018 campaign.

Divisional Round - Washington Nationals v Chicago Cubs - Game Four Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

“I mean like I said, we’ve talked to him, he feels good, and a good spot to put him in, let him DH and get at bats and see how he feels after today.”

The Nationals’ stops in New York and Toronto, where they’ll play under American League rules, provided Martinez and Murphy a chance to ease him back slowly in the designated hitter’s role.

“I think it helps,” Murphy acknowledged.

“It would be naïve to say that this isn’t a favorable time for me, personally. We had an off-day yesterday, two games in the American League, another off-day and then three more in the American League. It doesn’t mean I’ll play in every one. I’ll do whatever Davey says. But it does, I think, afford us the opportunity to maybe ease me back into it, if it’s necessary.

“But if I feel good, then I’m going to tell Davey I feel good and I’d like to play. But I’ll let him come up with the lineup, obviously.”

“We have to definitely have open lines of communication,” Martinez said.

“I told him that from the get-go. He’s got to be totally honest with me, and I’m going to be honest with him. If I think he needs a day off, he’s going to get a day off. So, he knows that. We’ve got to be real careful. We want him to play, but we also want him to play for the rest of the year and keep him healthy for the whole year.”

At this point, the left-handed hitting infielder, who put up a .322/.384/.543 line, 43 doubles, and 23 home runs in 144 games and 593 plate appearances in what ended up a 4.5 fWAR campaign in 2017, said he felt like he was finally ready to return to the majors so he could contribute to the cause.

“I feel good,” Murphy said. “I spoke with Mike Rizzo and I think we were both really honest with each other. I didn’t want to come back if I didn’t feel like I was ready. I think I’m in a position to help this team win baseball games, and that’s my goal right now.”

Murphy said it might not look pretty at times, though that was never really his thing, and as his manager said, he doesn’t care how it looks.

“I don’t want him to look pretty,” Martinez said. “I just want him to do his job and we’ll see how it goes, and we get back to the National League, once he gets his 3-4 at bats, we take the lead, we can do different things, and he understands that, so he’s just happy to be back, we’re happy to have him back.”

And back in time to contribute after a long absence in the final year of the 3-year/$37.5M deal he signed back in 2016.

“There’s still a lot of baseball left,” Murphy said. “A little less than two-thirds of the season.

“As you can see with the way the rest of the division is playing, we’re in a full-on scrap right now in the NL East. It’s exciting to get back, excited to be healthy and I can’t say enough about how much fun it’s been to watch this ballclub the last two months.”

Back in there for the first time tonight, Murphy went down swinging at an 0-2 slider from CC Sabathia the first time up. With two on and two out in the third, Murphy popped out on a 2-2 slider in his second trip to the plate, 0 for 2.

A grounder to the mound in his third trip to the plate left him 0 for 3, and he finished up his return to the lineup with a ten-pitch at bat against Dellin Betances, in which he fouled off six two-strike pitches before striking out, 0 for 4.

Did his manager think he looked rusty? “I wouldn’t say ‘rusty’,” Martinez told reporters after what ended up a 3-0 loss.

“His timing could have been a little off, but I know he’s going to hit, so we’ll see how he feels tomorrow and then we’ll go from there, but he’s going to be fine. I like the way he ran down to first base on that ball, so he looked pretty good.”