09/22/10 1:00 PM ET
Murphy steps up for Texas with Hamilton out
Outfielder's worth proves immeasurable to Rangers' run
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
AL OUTFIELD PRODUCTION
He may still be classified as a "fourth outfielder" but Murphy's value has been proven to be of immeasurable worth to the Rangers."He's been just what we needed, even when we didn't know exactly what we were going to need," general manager Jon Daniels said. "Two years ago Marlon Byrd was called our "5th outfielder" in Spring Training, then he led the team in OF at-bats. Same thing this year with Murph. Shows how critical depth is, and how selfless and team-first David is to stay ready and not complain while waiting for his opportunity." Fourth outfielder is an important role on the Rangers and, while Hamilton has been dealing with his latest ribcage injury, Murphy is hitting .375 for the month of September, despite going 0-for-4 on Tuesday. He is now approaching the .300 mark, not bad for a left-handed hitter who was hitting .151 on May 5. That was back when Washington was trying to keep him engaged by playing him only against left-handed pitchers. In previous seasons, Murphy often sat against left-handed pitchers while trying to fight the label of being a platoon player. But his .282 batting average against left-handers this season is his highest in three years with Texas, further testament of his evolution as a hitter. He doesn't have Hamilton's consistent awe-inspiring power but he has taken the same approach as his All-Star teammate. Back in March, these were two guys who could put on massive power displays in batting practice on the back fields of the Surprise (Ariz.) training complex. By mid-May, both realized batting practice home runs weren't getting the job done. Murphy, like Hamilton, was once a dead pull hitter. Under the tutelage of hitting coach Clint Hurdle, he has learned to hit to the opposite field and not try to hit everything deep. He has learned to take what the pitcher gives him, which simply means that if he gets a pitch low and away, drive it to left field rather than trying to pull it. "The longer you play this game, the more you try to learn about yourself and your swing," Murphy said. "Not doing too much has helped me be successful. I feel I've learned to hit better to the opposite field. I didn't trust myself before. Now I know I can and I'm trusting myself. "You look at guys who are successful hitters like Joe Mauer and Michael Young and Albert Pujols. Those are guys who use the whole field. Those are guys you want to model your game after. In 2009, I tried to pull everything. I had some success but also continued to slump. It definitely got me in slumps. Pitchers consistently pitched me away. I had to make adjustments and I couldn't." Now he can. It is the basic concept the Rangers need to get through the gripping hitting slump that they are dealing with on this West Coast roadtrip as they try to lock down the A.L. West title. They talked about it during hitters meetings on Tuesday afternoon before a 2-0 loss to the Angels and Ervin Santana. Roll out the cliché: quit trying to do too much. Murphy, like Hamilton, has absorbed the lesson. The Rangers "fourth outfielder" focused on what he could do better as a player rather than fret about when he was going to play. Now he is an integral part of their lineup. That is reason to smile.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.