Davey Martinez talked before Daniel Murphy’s first game off the Disabled List on Tuesday night in New York about taking advantage of the opportunity of playing under AL rules in Yankee Stadium and Toronto’s Roger Centre to work the 33-year-old infielder in slowly in Murphy’s first games back in the majors following offseason knee surgery and a 10-game rehab stint.
“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,” Martinez said.
He was asked at that point if he would be comfortable playing Murphy in the field if he did not have the luxury of using the DH spot.
“Yeah, he’s getting better each and every day,” Martinez said. “Right now we’ll worry about today and see how he feels, and we’ll go forth, come tomorrow see how he feels tomorrow.”
Murphy’s swing wasn’t right that first night, [ed. note - “Nats’ hitting coach Kevin Long told Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic, ‘He did not look very good at all. His swing was not even close to where he needs it to be,’ after that first game.”] so the veteran infielder went right to the batting cages in Yankee Stadium after the game and was there late working on things and then back out on the field early on Wednesday to get in more swings, which Martinez said was actually a positive sign.
“If he’s got that much energy and that much to take extra swings, I think he’s feeling pretty good,” the first-year skipper told reporters.
“He stayed on his feet. Last night, as you heard, he hit for a while, and came out early today and hit. Today that’s a good sign that he’s actually healthy, feeling good.
“And I know he wants to get — he said his timing was a little off, and he wants to make sure he’s good to go today.”
Before the series opener with the Blue Jays, Martinez said he thought Murphy was ready to return to the field, but they thought it was better to stick to their plan to keep him the DH.
“I talked to Murph today; I called him,” Martinez said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“Cause he says he’s ready to play the field. And I told him: ‘Look, we had a plan going into this week, so let’s stick to it. Let’s see how you feel today after your day off yesterday, and then we’ll go from there.’”
For the second of three in Toronto, the Nationals’ skipper made a decision to put Murphy back in the field, but at first base, where he played 211 games in his career, though he’d played in just 21 with the Nationals, all of them back in 2016.
“We talked a couple days ago and he said he felt like he was ready to play second,” Martinez said.
“And he’s played some first down in the minor leagues and he did well, so I talked to him last night and he was all for it.”
Martinez was asked if first base was less taxing and another way of easing Murphy back in.
“It’s a lot easier than the middle of the field,” he explained, “... but he’s still got to run to first base a lot, but with Max [Scherzer] pitching being a fly ball pitcher, we thought it would be perfect for him to get out there and test it out.”
Murphy made it through what ended up a 2-0 loss to the Jays on Saturday without incident going 0 for 4 at the plate to leave him 1 for 15 since he’s returned.
He looked fine in the field though.
“He was good,” Martinez said after the game.
“He had fun too over there. He told [Pedro Severino] — after the third out, Sevy went to fire the ball over there and [Murphy] came in the dugout and said, ‘Right now the game is a little quick, Sevy. So just keep the ball and go in the dugout.
“So it’s good to have him and [Adam] Eaton both back, and when they start rolling and they get hot, it’s going to be pretty fun.”