Patrick Murphy, 26, made his MLB debut in 2020, five-plus seasons into his time in Toronto’s system, after the Blue Jays selected the pitcher out of Hamilton High School in Chandler, AZ in the 3rd Round of the 2013 Draft.
Murphy made four appearances out of the bullpen for the Jays during 2020’s 60-game COVID campaign, and another eight in 2021, then he was claimed off of waivers by the Washington Nationals on August 14th.
“He’s a high-velo guy, good curveball, had some success in the minor leagues,” Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez said after the waiver claim was announced. “He’s had some control issues. So we’re going to get him down in our minor league system, he’s going to [Triple-A] Rochester now. He’s basically a two-pitch guy, can throw a changeup on occasion, but we’ll keep close eyes on him and we’ll see if we can bring him up here fairly soon, but we want to make sure that he goes down there and gets settled in.”
A starter in the minors with the Jays, Murphy moved to the bullpen in 2020, and the Nationals’ manager said he liked the 6’5’’, 235 lb righty in that role.
“I liked him as a reliever,” Martinez told reporters.
“Like I said, he’s a two-pitch guy. And he throws fairly hard, anywhere between 94 to 96, he’s got a good curveball, now we got to get him in that strike zone consistently.”
Martinez said at the time he watched a lot of video on Murphy, and got some insight from catcher Riley Adams, who was acquired from the Jays at the July 30th trade deadline, and had worked with the reliever in Toronto’s organization.
“We watch a lot of video,” Martinez explained.
“We talk to different guys, we get some analytical stuff on him — Riley Adams caught him. I talked to him a little bit a little while ago about him, and he said he’s a good kid, good make-up, works hard, his fastball is live, he said he throws two different fastballs, a four-seam and a two-seam. And I said, well that’s great, we’re going to work with him, he’s here, so we’ll see what we’ve got.”
Murphy made just three appearances at Triple-A in the Nationals’ system before the club called the right-hander up in late August.
“We like his fastball, he’s got a good curveball. We want to give him an opportunity and I want to see him up here, and see what he can do in our bullpen,” Martinez said after he’d announced that Murphy was joining the big league relief corps.
In his first seven appearances and 10 2⁄3 IP for the Nationals, Murphy put up a 2.53 ERA, 2.80 FIP, three walks (2.53 BB/9), 16 Ks (13.50 K/9), and a .220/.304/.317 line against, with four of his seven outings multi-inning appearances including a 2 2⁄3-inning, 46-pitch, four-K game on September 8th, after which his manager talked about what he’d seen in the first few trips to the mound by the pitcher.
“He’s coming along,” Martinez said. “Like I told him, there’s a difference — he was a starter for a lot of years and he got an opportunity to pitch in the bullpen — and I talked a lot about his fastball and his breaking ball, two very good pitches. The big thing for him is throwing strikes. And the ability to throw strikes when you need to with him, and he did a great job yesterday doing that. And he’s getting better.”
The manager talked about the transition Murphy was making from starting to relieving and what they’d discussed with the reliever when he came up to the majors again.
“Right now, and I told him from the get-go, I said, ‘Look, you’re going to pitch one inning, maybe one-plus innings, but you’ve going to be readily available, and he accepted that. He was a four-pitch pitcher when he was a starter. I sat down and talked to him about what our thoughts were with him, and I told him I said, ‘I want you to attack the strike zone with your fastball, in and out, up and down, and also use your curveball. I don’t want you to worry about changeups, I don’t want you to worry about sliders,’ and he looked at me and he said okay, and I told him I said, ‘I think it’s going to help you and it’s going to make you better using your fastball, and using your curveball, and he’s been great, and like I said, he’s had some outings where he pitched two innings, and kept us in the ballgame, and he’s been really good.”
Murphy’s final 10 appearances didn’t go as well, with the reliever giving up a total of 10 hits, three walks, and eight earned runs in eight innings (9.00 ERA, 4.17 FIP), striking out seven of the batters he faced, with opposing hitters putting up a .286/.342/.486 line.
“I just want to finish strong,” Murphy said after giving up at least one run for the fifth time in seven appearances on September 25th.
“I want to finish strong, leave a good impression going into the offseason,” he added. “I’ve been happy, I’ve been throwing the ball better than I was earlier in the year, just not getting the results right now, so hopefully I can just keep focusing on the process, and those results come.”
Murphy finished up the year with three scoreless appearances out of the bullpen in which he walked one, struck out three, and held the 12 batters he faced to a .182/.250/.273 line.
Overall on the year, Murphy threw his sinker 33.3% of the time, averaging 96.6 MPH with the pitch, with a .225 BAA on the two-seamer, he threw his curve 32.9% of the time, averaging 83 MPH, with opposing hitters hitting .308 on his breaking ball, and threw his four-seamer 32.3% of the time, averaging 96.6 with that pitch as well, with opposing hitters putting up a .273 AVG on that pitch. His changeup he threw just seven times (1.4%, 90.3 MPH, .500 BAA).
He’s one of several relatively young, unproven pitchers who’ll get a chance to make the club when/if Spring Training 2022 gets underway.
“I’m excited for these guys to get back to Spring Training and fight for a job,” Martinez said at the end of the 2021 campaign.
“There’s going to be openings, so you know they’re going to come to Spring Training and fight for a job and see where we’re at.”