ATLANTA — Daniel Murphy played all nine innings for Class AA Harrisburg Saturday, which seems like a good sign. He had three at-bats Friday, too. He is playing back-to-back days. Another good indication.
But according to people who have seen Murphy in person over the last few days, the veteran second baseman does not look like a man ready to return from the disabled list any time soon. He has four errors on his rehab assignment. He is not running the bases well. A scout who has seen him play this weekend described him as “gimpy,” “struggling to move laterally” and lacking “straight-ahead speed.” Mick Reinhard, who has covered the Senators for years, tweeted video of Murphy during his recent outings, video that shows him struggling to complete basic plays and run out regular ground balls.
All weekend, Nationals Manager Dave Martinez has been matter-of-fact about Murphy’s progress. He indicated that Murphy will be reevaluated by team doctors when the team returns to Washington this week. Initially, the mention of a doctor visit combined with his extensive playing time for the Senators seemed to suggest Murphy might be getting cleared to return this week. Now, it seems he might be in need of a more ominous evaluation, though no one has said so, and the Nationals have said all along they are not sure what to expect with the microfracture surgery Murphy underwent in October.
“It’s going to take him time to get back on his feet every day. Some days are better than others. We get that. But the good part is he’s playing every day,” Martinez said. “One day, it’ll come all together.”
Presumably, the Nationals would not be letting Murphy play in these rehab games if it weren’t, and Martinez confirmed that the team believes he is not injurin himself further. He was not running perfectly when the Nationals sent him on a rehab assignment, but Director of Medical Services Harvey Sharman watched all of Murphy’s sprint work closely and seemed content with that fact.
“I think it’s more getting that mind-set that he’s okay, that the knee is fine,” Martinez said. “When he needs a day off, he’s going to get a day off, but he’s playing every day, so we’ll see what happens from here.”
In the meantime, more definitive word seems likely to be available in a few days, after Murphy sees team doctors and gets a more thorough assessment. Microfracture surgeries do not always yield positive results. The procedure attempts to deal with damaged cartilage by drilling holes in the bone, a process that fosters the growth of new cartilage. Athletes do not always return to their previous form after the procedure. Grady Sizemore, for example, was never the same after the procedure. Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner has recovered well. At times, the Nationals’ unwillingness to set a timetable for their MVP candidate has been maddening, though the procedure has such mixed results that one can understand some hesitation. For now, Murphy simply isn’t ready — and no one can say when he will be.
“I think we’re still a ways from [him being activated], but we’ll see,” Martinez said. “We want him to keep progressing.”
- The Nationals placed reliever Tim Collins on the paternity list Sunday and recalled right-handed pitcher Jefry Rodriguez from Harrisburg to take his place. Rodriguez got called up last month, but did not appear in a game. Collins can be away from the team for a maximum of three days.
- Bryce Harper gets a day off Sunday for the second time this season. Martinez wanted to give Harper two days in a row, and because the Nationals are off tomorrow, he can get them.
- Matt Adams underwent X-rays on his right foot, off which he fouled a ball Saturday. They were negative, but Adams is still swollen and sore. Martinez did not rule him out as a pinch hitter Sunday.
WASHINGTON NATIONALS (33-24)
Trea Turner SS
Juan Soto LF
Anthony Rendon 3B
Matt Reynolds 1B
Brian Goodwin RF
Michael A. Taylor CF
Wilmer Difo 2B
Spencer Kieboom C
Jeremy Hellickson P
ATLANTA BRAVES (34-24)
Ender Inciarte CF
Ozzie Albies 2B
Freddie Freeman 1B
Nick Markakis RF
Kurt Suzuki C
Johan Camargo 3B
Preston Tucker LF
Dansby Swanson SS
Anibal Sanchez P