Daniel Murphy sat in front of his locker, his left leg propped up on a chair, a pair of crutches leaning against the wall. The fifth-leading hitter in the National League looked appropriately disgusted as he considered another season cut short by a knee injury.
08/15/2011 11:36 AM ET
Murphy's injury hurts Mets
Second baseman has been out since Aug. 8 with sprained MCL
By Hal Bock / MLBPLAYERS.com
Murphy suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee covering second base on an attempted steal. He does not need surgery but will miss the rest of the season. A year earlier, Murphy missed the entire season when he tore the MCL in his right knee trying to turn a double play at second base.
"I'm frustrated, but considering this is probably the best news I could have gotten," he said.
That's because this injury is not quite as serious as the one that finished his season a year ago. For that, Murphy is grateful.
"I've been down this road before," he said. "It doesn't feel as bad this time."
But having him hurt twice in successive years on plays at second base is leading the Mets to believe they may have to find another position for him. And that may not be a simple task.
Murphy was drafted out of Jacksonville University as a third baseman, but the Mets have David Wright, the face of their franchise, at third. They tried to give Murphy the left field job in 2009, but that didn't work out. When Carlos Delgado was injured that season, Murphy became a first baseman by necessity. That wasn't always pretty and with top prospect Ike Davis coming up to play that position, Murphy was sent to winter ball and given a second baseman's glove.
Davis had a solid first year and was playing well when he hurt his ankle in a freak collision in May. Once again, Murphy became a first baseman by necessity. He also logged time at third base when Wright missed two months with a stress fracture in his back. He also played some at second when manager Terry Collins shuffled his players.
There were some outstanding plays and some not so outstanding at all three positions, but with a .320 batting average for the season and .360 since May 21 -- second best in the Major Leagues -- Murphy's bat was vital in the Mets lineup. So, the challenge for Collins next year will be to find a place to play him.
"Next year, if we're 100 percent healthy, we've got to get his bat in the lineup," the manager said. "There are two places -- second base and the outfield. Had we left him there all year, I think we'd have a second baseman."
But rookie Justin Turner has stepped in and played well at that spot, leaving the possibility that when he's healthy again, Murphy will return to the outfield.
"If he comes in early in January, and we start the process of whatever position and make the drills more grueling, he'll master it," the manager said.
Collins was also concerned by Murphy's footwork around second base, which he thought led to the latest injury.
"I think if he had been the second baseman here all summer, I doubt his leg would have been in that position," Collins said.
All of the position possibilities for Murphy also will be impacted by whatever moves the Mets make in the offseason. Trades and free-agent signings can alter needs, but a lively bat will almost certainly earn him playing time at one position or another.
In Murphy's locker, there are three gloves.
"I haven't used my outfield glove this year," he said. "The first baseman's glove is a little bigger with a deep pocket. The third baseman's glove is more molded. It also has a deep pocket."
More importantly, there are his bats. That's what the Mets miss most.
Hal Bock is a freelance writer based in New York.