The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Daniel Murphy arrives at Nationals camp: ‘This red feels pretty good’

Daniel Murphy, who signed with the Nationals in December, arrived at spring training Sunday. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

VIERA — New Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy took the Space Coast Stadium field from the first base dugout for the first time, a few hours after arriving in a major league camp somewhere other than Port St. Lucie for the first time in his career.

Boswell: Bringing Jonathan Papelbon back is either the best idea or the worst

“I usually just go an hour farther,” said Murphy, who lives a few hours north in Jacksonville during the offseason. “But I’m definitely excited to be here. I got a really nice welcoming from everybody here. I’ve been competing against these guys for so long. There’s a lot of familiar faces in here. Very welcoming. Now it’s just about going to work.”

Murphy played for the Mets since 2008, and therefore has spent his entire big league career playing against the Nationals, 18 games in a season or more, when counting spring training.

“A lot of them get on base a lot, so I saw them at second base quite a bit,” Murphy joked. “It felt like [Anthony] Rendon and [Bryce] Harper and Zim [Ryan Zimmerman] and [Jayson] Werth, all those guys were coming through second. So I saw them a lot. You get to speak with them before the game at batting practice. You get to know them in passing. I’m really excited to get to know them at a more intimate level, on a day-to-day basis than 18 times a year.”

Murphy said Zimmerman, who also arrived at camp Sunday but will not speak to media until Tuesday, helped his family find a place to live in D.C. during the offseason. He played in New York with fellow new National Oliver Perez, whose locker is just across the way, and played against new locker neighbor Ben Revere for years in Philadelphia.

Ben Revere joins his former National League East foes

One person Murphy did not know well was Dusty Baker, who he spoke to before the season.

“He made it easy. He asked me, ‘What do you expect from me, skipper? What do you need out of me?’,” Baker said. “Most of the time that’s what I’m telling you; it’s not usually what they ask of me. That was a very nice phone call; a very sincere phone call, I should say.”

Baker said when he worked on TBS broadcasts with former outfielder Gary Sheffield, Sheffield used to gush about Murphy. He also related to Murphy’s deep Christian faith, and his new fatherhood, as well as that commitment to winning.

“I think coming into it, the understanding is this is about winning baseball games. How can we do that as a group, collectively? I’m going to do whatever I’m told,” Murphy said. “I’ve always felt that if you get to the end of a season and you accomplish all the goals that you set as a team and individually it’s going to look the way you want to. That ends up being a secondary aspect, I think, of the season.”

Murphy said he doesn’t yet know what it will be like for him, playing on the other side of the increasingly heated Mets-Nats rivalry. Maybe after a spring training game or two, he said, he’ll feel the difference more.

“I know this red feels pretty good,” he said. “I like that part of it.”

Murphy worked out at second base along with non-roster invitee Scott Sizemore Sunday, while Danny Espinosa and Trea Turner switched off as his double play partner at short. For now, though Murphy can play third, first, or the outfield if necessary, he is the Nationals projected starting second baseman. As for where he may hit in the batting order, Dusty Baker couldn’t say.

“I’m going to try to separate [he and Harper] if I can, so the opposition doesn’t bring in just one lefty to handle both of them,” Baker said. “Even though they both handle lefties pretty well, I’d rather not do that … I’ve written out probably like about 12 lineups. I got Murph and then we got Ben Revere, and that kind of changed it a little bit and it depends if Michael [A. Taylor] is in the lineup or it depends if Werth’s in the lineup.”

As pitchers and catchers begin work, Dusty Baker is in his element again

>>>>> Baker spent much of  Sunday’s workout in the 10-pack, the set of mounds where Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Bronson Arroyo and others threw bullpen sessions. Among those that impressed him was Lucas Giolito, who threw 33 pitches in his first big league bullpen, in front of Nationals executives, ownership and coaches.

“I didn’t know he was that big, and he has a very, very quick arm,” Baker said. “He has one of the quicker arms I’ve ever seen from windup into his release point. It kind of looks like he can throw as hard as almost he needs to. I really liked what I saw.”

Baker also cited Trevor Gott, Blake Treinen, Felipe Rivero and Michael Brady — the other piece of the Yunel Escobar deal — as pitchers who stood out to him Sunday.