MESA, Ariz. — An appendectomy interrupted Matt Murton’s comeback tour before it could gain any real momentum, and there are now only two weeks left before the Cubs will break camp and leave Arizona.
Murton at least took a step in the right direction on Tuesday, hitting a single and a double off Jon Lester during the simulated game on Field 1 at Sloan Park. Murton hasn’t been able to get any Cactus League at-bats yet and still needs to get comfortable with running hard again and playing the outfield after the surgery.
“It is frustrating,” Murton said. “But it’s something that’s outside of my control, so I can’t really get caught up in what window is left or not left.
“I’ve just got to try to live in the moment, occupy today and do the best that I can in that moment. And let the rest of it figure itself out.”
Murton — a part of Lou Piniella’s 2007 playoff team and a piece to the 2008 Rich Harden/Josh Donaldson trade with the Oakland A’s — spent the last six seasons in Japan and believed his game would still translate here.
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The Cubs committed almost $200 million to Jason Heyward and Dexter Fowler this offseason and have young power hitters Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler in their outfield mix. Shane Victorino and Matt Szczur are competing for bench jobs. Ben Zobrist and Javier Baez can also play multiple positions.
Murton has a connection to president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, who worked at Fenway Park when the Boston Red Sox made Murton the No. 32 overall pick in the 2003 draft (and later traded him to Chicago in the Nomar Garciaparra blockbuster deal).
Whether Murton, 34, has an understanding with this front office about possibly looking for other opportunities later this month — or a willingness to go back to Triple-A Iowa — is unclear.
“I just don’t want to get ahead of myself,” Murton said. “My goal in coming here — and them giving me this opportunity — was to see where I was at. I really feel like I had something left. But, again, it’s talk until you get out there and you do it.
“You have to go out there (and) compete (and) prove that you’re an asset. How that shakes out on a 25-man roster — or with one club or another club — it’s just the idea that you can compete at the major-league level.
“If you do that (and) play the game the right way ... you just got to hope that the opportunity’s going to come at some point in time.”