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01/09/13 9:00 PM ET
Murphy ready to be Rangers' everyday left fielder
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
MESQUITE, Texas -- General manager Jon Daniels said this week that the Rangers are "real comfortable" with their outfield as they head toward Spring Training. He also suggested the club still may look at ways to reinforce that area.
Industry sources say the Rangers are still engaged in trade discussions and haven't ruled out the possibility of pulling off something major before the offseason is over. They have had discussions all winter with the D-backs concerning Justin Upton and Jason Kubel, and the Nationals are trying to move Mike Morse.
But right now, with fewer than five weeks to go before Spring Training, David Murphy is in an unusual situation of having an everyday job. What the Rangers may or may not do between now and their arrival in Arizona may change that, but at this moment, Murphy is their regular left fielder.
"I never take anything for granted," Murphy said at the Rangers Winter Caravan stop. "I'd like to think I have a lock on the job and last year was obviously a good year, but I'm continuing wanting to build on what I've done. You never take anything for granted, that's the bottom line.
I know the front office is doing everything they can to make this team better. They've obviously made a few moves, and like I said, our lineup is pretty good where it stands right now. I don't think there's any reason to speculate. There's been talk about [Upton] for a long time, and it hasn't happened yet. He's a great player. He can definitely help our team. But who knows whether or not a deal will get done."
Murphy earned a full-time job last year by hitting .304 with 15 home runs, 61 RBIs, a .380 on-base percentage and a .479 slugging percentage in 147 games and 457 at-bats. He also hit .347 (26-for-75) against left-handers and was a finalist for the Gold Glove Award among left fielders.
"I feel like I answered some questions, not only to the Rangers, but to myself," Murphy said. "I came into Spring Training last year. ... I said I wanted to do two things: I wanted to get better defensively and I wanted to focus on doing a lot better and having better at-bats against left-handed pitching. I am happy with the way I did each of those things last year. But if I get content, then I'm going to take a step back. The key is to maintain the focus I had last year, take that into this year and improve even more."
Murphy has been the "fourth outfielder" almost ever since he was acquired from the Red Sox on July 31, 2007, in a trade for reliever Eric Gagne. He is close to shedding that label but might fall into that trap again if the Rangers pull off one these much-discussed deals.
If not, Murphy will be a crucial part of a lineup that lost Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young this offseason. The Rangers have signed free-agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski and designated hitter Lance Berkman, but they'll still need more firepower from those coming back from last year.
Murphy used the word "solid" to describe the Rangers' lineup.
"We've got plenty of All-Stars in there," Murphy said. "We're going to be solid from top to bottom. I know plenty of people dwell on the fact that we lost some firepower, but it's Major League Baseball. Lineups are going to change. I think the way that things ended toward the end of last year, this is a perfect time to shake things up.
"It's going to be different walking into Spring Training this year and seeing a lot of guys that I was used to seeing on a daily basis not there, but you move on and we're still going to be a great team. It's going to be fun to watch this year.
If the Rangers added another hitter, a right-handed bat makes sense not only because of Murphy but left-handed-hitting first baseman Mitch Moreland. Berkman is a switch-hitter, but he has better numbers from the left side.
Morse would make sense to the Rangers as a right-handed hitter who can play the corners of the outfield, first base and be used at designated hitter. He could even give the Rangers a platoon partner with Murphy in left, although Murphy's .347 average against lefties last season suggests that's not needed.
"I think I've proven that I can be an asset against right-handed pitching," Murphy said. "Over the small sample size I had against lefties last year, I took a step forward. I'd like to prove that I can do it over an even bigger sample size. Performance against lefties, that's something I need to buckle down on and prove I can be consistent and that last year was no fluke."
The Rangers continue to review their roster and their outfield situation. There is still plenty of time to make a deal, but right now Murphy has a full-time job.