SURPRISE, Ariz. – David Murphy’s goal is to keep shattering preconceived notions about him.
He did a good job of it in 2012, showing he could play better defensively and improve his at-bats against left-handed pitching. Now, his mission is to do it on a greater scale, proving he can play in left field every day and provide clutch hits against some of the toughest southpaws in the game.
“I want to be as complete a player as I possibly can,” Murphy said. “I still there there’s a challenge against lefties. What I did last year was against a small sample size. I’d like to see if I can do it against a bigger sample size.”
He’s likely to get that chance. Murphy goes into the 2013 season as starting outfielder for the first time. There’s no discussion of being the fourth outfielder or how he might work his way into the lineup, though he always seemed to find a way to get 400 or more at-bats no matter his role.
One of the deficiencies in Murphy’s game was that he struggled against left-handed pitching, making it tough to play him more. But last year, he was 26-for-75 (.347) against left-handed pitchers. It was a vast improvement and raised his career average against lefties to .266.
But many of those at-bats weren’t against some of the top lefthanders in the league. Murphy never faced Chris Sale or CC Sabathia. He was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts against David Price. In his career against those three pitchers, he’s 5-for-36 (.138).
Murphy says he wants to see his name on the lineup card when the Rangers face those types of pitchers. And as the starting left fielder, it’s likely he will play against those pitchers.
“He always gives you a good at-bat and he gave us good at-bats (last year),” manager Ron Washington said. “He’s my left fielder.”
What Murphy's performance against lefties in 2012 did for him was build up his confidence. He was successful thanks to a different approach. In the past, he said he would “try to do too much” because he knew that he wasn’t going to get many chances.
“Last year, I took a simple approach,” Murphy said. “I didn’t try to do too much. I tried to hit line drives up the middle and get my hits when I could. At this point, I know I’m not a middle-of-the-lineup threat against left-handed pitching, but if I’m hitting down in the eighth hole, I can still be productive if I work a guy or if I have a 10-pitch at-bat. If I hit a single with guys on second and third, that’s good enough production for me.”
Murphy said he’d also like to add some more power, but he’s not going to think about it.
“If I go up there trying to hit home runs, I think bad things will happen,” Murphy said. “I still need to play my game. Each year, as long as I play this game, I’m going to try to take my game to another level in each individual category.”