It appears like Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy will not be ready to answer the call of "let's play ball" on Opening Day.
The Nats' 32-year-old infielder is still recuperating from microfracture surgery he had on his right knee back in October.
ESPN senior writer Eddie Matz confirmed the news relative to the left-handed hitter. Per Matz's piece, Murphy disclosed his posture on the prospect of Opening Day.
"It's reasonable to expect I won't be in the Opening Day lineup," Murphy said Wednesday.
Murphy's statement reflects what Washington's general manger Mike Rizzo indicated on Monday. According to MLB.com's Jamal Collier, Rizzo said then that the Nationals were "not quite there" as far as cutting the cord with Murphy for Opening Day honors. However, the GM knew in the back of his mind that the move would not be avoidable.
Sidelining Murphy temporarily makes perfect sense for the Nationals. The three-time All-Star has not even played in a Grapefruit League contest for his team yet. Additionally, it is logical due to an obvious reason Bleacher Report's Rob Goldberg alludes to.
Goldberg reminds baseball fans that the Nationals start the 2018 campaign on March 29. The NL East ball club will be playing on the road against the Cincinnati Reds.
Due to that factor, there is not a sufficient amount of time for Murphy to get into game shape. Quite frankly, it is as simple as that.
Via Collier's article, Rizzo believes it would not be intelligent to try to speed up Murphy's rehab. One of the better hitters in baseball, Murphy depends on the lower half of his body at the dish.
"I think it's going at a good pace," Rizzo said of Murphy's rehab.
"I like the strength in his leg and his knee. I just think that we have to be really careful with him because of his legs. There's not a hitter in baseball that utilizes his lower half more than him."As unfortunate as this is for the team, Mark Zuckerman of MASN Sports reported that Murphy is getting better. Zuckerman revealed that the two-time Silver Slugger recipient is taking batting practice on a daily basis. Additionally, Murphy has not forgotten about defense, for he has recently amped up his side-to-side activity when fielding ground balls.
Granted the Nationals held onto the hope that Murphy could start on Opening Day, the fact that he will not be is not too surprising. According to a different piece by Collier, Murphy's injury was going to take at least 4-6 months to heal anyway. That being said, there was never a guarantee for the 2B to start the season with his ball club.
Nevertheless, that does not mean Murphy is happy. He has invested the whole offseason healing and getting fully healthy will still take more time than he wished, per Matz.
"I think naturally for any athlete, I'm going to come back later than I wanted to," Murphy said.
"Due to the fact that this is the first time I've had microfracture surgery, I wasn't really certain what to expect. I'd talked to other guys who had gone through it, but each individual surgery or injury is unique. So I think whenever I do come back, from my personal perspective, it will be later, but it doesn't mean it'll be wrong."Thankfully, as Zuckerman reported, Murphy has been improving by making baby steps. Although the team does not want to overdo it yet, there is a slight possibility Murphy may receive a few at-bats in Grapefruit League action. In doing so, seeing him would give the Nationals' coaches an idea of where he is truly at status wise.
Luckily for the Nationals, they have some depth at the second base position. The rather versatile Howie Kendrick projects to earn the most playing time while Murphy is out. Wilmer Difo is another practical option that the Nats plan to use. According to Matz, manager Davey Martinez understands the depth he has, insisting the club will be "fine" without Murphy.
"We have guys that can step in," said Martinez.
"We're going to miss him for sure, but with those guys in the lineup, we're going to be fine."Murphy is coming off one of the best seasons of his professional career. In 2017, he hit a whopping 0.322 accompanied by 23 dingers and 93 RBIs. His numbers led to him earning one of his three above mentioned All-Star appearances.