By now, the Nationals probably hoped there would be a little more certainty about Daniel Murphy’s status for their first game of the postseason. Still, all indications suggest that the 31-year-old second baseman, who was shut down on Sept. 23 with a buttocks strain, will be in the starting lineup Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"I think he's going to be ready for Game 1 and we feel confident about that," General Manager Mike Rizzo said at Tuesday’s pre-NLDS workout.
The injury hinders Murphy most when he’s running the bases and fielding, so he spent much of the roughly 90-minute workout testing himself in both areas. He took two rounds of ground balls at second base, the first of which were hit directly to him, and the other to gauge his range on potential double-play balls. So far, the Nats like what they see.
“He looked pretty good at second base,” manager Dusty Baker said. “We didn't have him range very far right or left, but then I saw him running with Harvey, one of our trainers, and he looked pretty good.”
“I would say he probably could have played [the last few regular season games] if he needed to,” added first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. “But there was no reason with the playoffs locked up and home field locked up, as well…use these four days to be ready to go and Friday we'll be ready to have some fun.”
Even if Murphy plays somewhat compromised, the Nats will surely take what they can get from him. He was the team’s best hitter throughout the regular season, posting a career-best slash line of .347/.390/.595 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI. If Washington’s offense breaks out in the postseason, it’s likely that Murphy has something to do with it.
"Murph has great at-bats, no matter what," right fielder Bryce Harper said. "So he could probably not see a ball for six months and go out there and hit a double right then. His swing is so easy, so fluent. He knows himself so well that he doesn't need much. So take three weeks off, face Kershaw, why not?"
Though Tuesday appeared to be a step in a right direction, the Nats won’t know Murphy’s availability for sure until they see how his legs respond after two more days of workouts.
“I'm sure it's always a possibility [that he will miss Game 1],” Baker said. “If it wasn't, then I would say he's gonna be ready today. Like I said, we're working towards that, and he's on the way. That's all I can tell you.”