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04/06/08 4:30 PM ET
Murphy shedding annoying label
Outfielder proving early that he is more than afterthought
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- One thing has emerged from the first week of the season for the Rangers.
David Murphy does not appear to be a fourth outfielder, no matter what they thought in Boston.
Murphy started in right field on Sunday, making him the only outfielder to start all six games in the field. Josh Hamilton had five starts in center but was at designated hitter on Saturday night.
More notable is that Marlon Byrd and Frank Catalanotto seem to be taking a back seat to Murphy when it comes to who'll be in the lineup on a given day.
"I expected to round-robin all of them but [Murphy] is swinging the bat well," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "As long as he's swinging the bat and playing as well as he's playing, you've got to pencil him in. Even when he doesn't get his hits, he's on base with a walk. He's catching everything that's hit to him and running things down out there. He's playing good baseball."
Catalanotto, hitting .125, started in left on Sunday while Byrd was given the day off. He was hitless in his first 13 at-bats.
"Marlon will figure it out," Washington said. "He's strong mentally. We trust him. I have five outfielders, and I'm going to do my best to get him at-bats. I haven't given up on him. I'm going to get him out there as much as I can."
Byrd will be in left field on Tuesday in the Rangers home opener. Washington said he's planning on Byrd in left, Hamilton in center and Milton Bradley in right against Orioles left-hander Brian Burres. Murphy will be the designated hitter. The Rangers need him in there.
Murphy went into Sunday's game leading the Rangers with a .412 average, including 2-for-3 with runners in scoring position. He added a hit his first time up.
Murphy has managed to keep going what he started last year when he hit .340 in 43 games and 103 at-bats after being acquired from the Red Sox on July 31.
"I definitely felt I made a good first impression, but I don't think I'm done making a good first impression," Murphy said. "Last year I played better than I ever have in my life. There's no doubt in my mind that I could do it again, but I definitely want to prove to everybody that I could pick up where I left off."
In doing so, Murphy is shedding the "fourth outfielder" label that was placed on him with the Red Sox. They had Jacoby Ellsbury in front of him and figured that's all Murphy would be. That's why they were willing to include him as one of three players in a trade for Eric Gagne.
"I definitely got labeled in Boston as just a fourth outfielder and nothing better than a fourth outfielder," Murphy said. "It came to the point where the media would ask me questions like, 'What do I think about people saying you're just a fourth outfielder?' Obviously, you can't talk your way out of it. You have to play your way and show it."
He is getting that chance.