Home Gym – Mariners catcher Tom Murphy back at full strength after missing entirety of 2020
Tom Murphy is back behind the plate for the Mariners.
About eight months after the 29-year-old catcher’s season was upended by a pair of errant foul balls in summer camp, Murphy, who would have been Seattle’s Opening Day starter in 2020 if healthy, is back at full strength.
Murphy spoke excitedly with reporters Saturday afternoon from the club’s spring training complex in Arizona, and he’s ready to resume his busy, rigorous workload.
“I think they could have probably thrown anything at me that first day and I would have been alright with it, because it just felt right being back out there with the guys and being a part of the team,” he said.
“Even though I spent some time with them last year, it just didn’t feel like you were a part of the team when you’re not out there grinding each day with the guys.”
Murphy has appeared in parts of five major league seasons with the Rockies and Mariners, but broke out in his first season with Seattle in 2019, hitting .273/.324/.535 with 12 doubles, 18 homers and 40 RBI while splitting time behind the plate with Omar Narvaez.
He joined the Mariners the first week of that 2019 season after the Giants designated him for assignment, and it didn’t take long for him to earn almost daily playing time.
“I couldn’t be more thankful that this organization was the one that picked me up and decided to give me a shot, really,” Murphy said. “That’s the whole key, right, is that they didn’t have to do the things that they did. They didn’t have to try to bring me on.
“But, they did and they let me be who I was, and they actually advanced upon that. They made me better than what I realized it could be.”
Narvaez was traded to the Brewers that December, and Murphy entered spring camp last season as Seattle’s clear No. 1 at catcher, with the plan for him to share some reps with Austin Nola.
When baseball was shut down for nearly four months by the COVID-19 pandemic, Murphy developed an extensive solitary workout routine back home in upstate New York.
All signs still pointed to him as Seattle’s starter to open the shortened season until a few days before the Mariners opened their shortened season. During camp at T-Mobile Park, Murphy took a pair of foul balls — one while hitting, one while catching — off the same area of his left foot.
The injury was initially thought to be a minor contusion, and initial scans didn’t show any damage, but the foot continued to limit Murphy in intrasquad games and workouts, leading to an eventual CT scan that revealed a fracture.
He started the season on the injured list, and never made it back to the field. He spent some time at the club’s alternate training site in Tacoma and in Arizona before heading back to New York for the offseason.
“I got home and we waited until about November to start sprinting and doing some things that would kind of prove to myself that I was ready to go and that everything was OK,” he said. “And around that time is when everything did start to feel like it was completely normal and nothing was wrong.”
Following his first stint on the injured list in his big league career, Murphy also took time in the offseason to process the lost season.
“It was one of those things where you didn’t realize how much is affecting you until you got home,” he said. “Usually when you get home it’s a great time to reflect on the season you just had, whether it was good, bad, indifferent. You can pull something from it.
“But, I felt like I had nothing to pull from, from that season. It really kind of gets towards your identity, right? I try not to identify as a baseball player, but it’s very hard to do that. So, to go home with nothing to feed off of for the offseason, it was a very different feel, and like I said, it took me a while once I got home to really feel normal again, and be prepared like I feel I am now.”
An avid outdoorsman, he said he spent much of October and November reflecting while spending time out in the woods near his home.
“That’s something that’s always been a part of me and always will be,” he said. “You find no better space in this world than just being out there alone, and really reflecting upon how you’re feeling and those sorts of things.
“I cherish that time as much as any time really, because it is that that chance to kind of look inward and see how you can improve.”
Missing all of 2020 could have created mental obstacles, but Mariners manager Scott Servais commends the outlook Murphy brought to camp this spring.
Murphy said he has had “no issues so far” with his foot the first week of camp as he has started working with both familiar and new pitchers on Seattle’s staff in bullpen sessions.
“I think the biggest thing right now is he’s very grateful to be back,” Servais said. “Every day walking out there he’s got a smile on his face. ‘How are we doing, Murph?’ ‘Happy to be here.’ That’s kind of the overriding feeling with him.”
GONZALES TO START OPENING DAY
Servais confirmed what most assumed heading into the 2021 season — Marco Gonzales will be Seattle’s Opening Day starter.
The 29-year-old left-hander is set to make his third consecutive Opening Day start for the club after earning the nod in both 2019 and 2020.
Gonzales led the Mariners in starts (11) and innings (69 2/3) during the shortened season, and posted a 7-2 record and career-best 3.10 ERA.
Returning starters Yusei Kikuchi and Justus Sheffield, as well as free agent signees James Paxton and Chris Flexen, are expected to follow Gonzales in Seattle’s six-man rotation, with the final spot still up for competition in camp.
“Marco has established himself,” Servais said. “He’s the leader of our pitching staff. We love the guys behind him. We all know Paxton and what he’s capable of doing, and other guys have taken steps forward, but Marco’s the guy that will step out there the first day.”
Home Gym – Mariners catcher Tom Murphy back at full strength after missing entirety of 2020]
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