Daniel Murphy was walking briskly through the Washington Nationals clubhouse Sunday morning with a black brace wrapped around his right knee serving as the only indication that he underwent microfracture surgery in October.
Murphy has been a consistent presence around the Nationals since the beginning of spring training as he’s continued checking boxes while his workload has intensifying. And the next step will take Murphy away from the club starting Monday; while the Nationals head north to New York to commence a nine-game road trip, Murphy will head south to West Palm Beach, Fla., to report for extended spring training. There, he’ll play in his first games since October.
“I would think he’d treat it like spring training,” Nationals Manager Dave Martinez said. “And we’ll see where he’s at. The biggest thing is we got this far, not to start pushing him. He’s progressing really well so we just got to make sure we don’t push him too fast now.”
Martinez said the 33-year-old Murphy was scheduled to run on the field at Nationals Park on Sunday, but steady rain was threatening those plans. Murphy began running the bases last week. It was the last step required before playing in games after fielding and hitting for weeks. In Florida, he’ll accumulate at-bats while running and fielding in live action. His schedule, however, remained unclear, according to Martinez.
“When you go to spring training, nobody plays every day,” Martinez said. “I can’t say that he won’t try to play every day because, if you don’t know Murphy, he’s a competitor and wants to play every day. But we really have to monitor his playing time and make sure that he’s good to go. I mean, we don’t want to rush him right now. They went through the diligence. He’s doing really good. Now’s not the time to start pushing him to play every day. Let’s just continue to build him up and get him ready so when he comes back, he’s ready to play.”
Howie Kendrick has been a solid replacement at second base, batting .319 in 12 games this season, but the Nationals have missed Murphy’s presence in the lineup especially as they’ve dealt with injuries to Adam Eaton and Anthony Rendon. It is nearly impossible to replace an all-star second baseman who batted .334 with a .956 OPS the past two seasons.
While Murphy’s return isn’t imminent, Martinez said Rendon is not facing the possibility of going on the disabled list after fouling a ball off his left big toe Friday night. Rendon wasn’t in Saturday’s lineup and isn’t available again Sunday, but Martinez said he’s still “day-to-day.”
“He said he felt a little better today but he was still a little sore,” Martinez said.
Meanwhile, Eaton, who is on the disabled list with a bone bruise in his left ankle, will travel with the Nationals on their road trip. Martinez said he’s also progressing. Eaton is eligible to come off the disabled list on Thursday — an off-day for the Nationals before they begin a three-game series in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.
Barring a rainout, Wilmer Difo will start at third base and Moises Sierra will be in left field for Sunday’s series finale against the Rockies. Brian Goodwin hasn’t played since hurting his wrist diving for a ball Wednesday, but Martinez said he was available off the bench Saturday and would be available again Sunday.
DJ LeMahieu 2B
Chris Iannetta C
Charlie Blackmon CF
Carlos Gonzalez RF
Gerardo Parra LF
Ian Desmond 1B
Trevor Story SS
Ryan McMahon 3B
Tyler Anderson LHP
Trea Turner SS
Wilmer Difo 3B
Bryce Harper RF
Ryan Zimmerman 1B
Howie Kendrick 2B
Matt Wieters C
Moises Sierra LF
Michael A. Taylor CF
Stephen Strasburg RHP
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