Daniel Murphy pushing hard in bid to be ready for Opening Day

Mets infielder Daniel Murphy gets ready to take Mets infielder Daniel Murphy gets ready to take batting practice as pitchers and catchers reported Monday for the first day of spring training at Tradition Field. (Feb. 11, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

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VIERA, Fla. -- Infield dirt caked the front of Daniel Murphy's road grays.

On nothing else but instinct, in the first inning at Space Coast Stadium Thursday, Murphy bolted from first base to second after Lucas Duda's fly ball was caught in the deepest part of centerfield. Murphy ended his journey with a headfirst lunge that was part slide, part crash landing, and was safe.

Sidelined for nearly all of spring training because of an intercostal strain, Murphy pushed it in his first Grapefruit League game, and manager Terry Collins didn't seem to mind.

"He needs to,'' Collins said after the Mets' 5-1 loss to the Nationals. "He needs to a little bit, otherwise he stays here. He's got to show us he's ready to play, he's got to show us he's not going to have a problem swinging the bat or with his mobility because he hasn't played much. So he's got to go play.''

With only two days left in spring training, the Mets still face plenty of roster decisions, and the most critical might hinge on the health of their banged-up starters.

Mets captain David Wright, who also is working his way back from a strained intercostal muscle, finished 0-for-3 with two walks and two runs scored in a Class A game against the Marlins Thursday. For the first time since his return from an injury-shortened stint at the World Baseball Classic, Wright played five innings at third base. He told reporters he wants to play as early as Friday against the Cardinals, though Collins said the team's decision-makers would huddle about what comes next.

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Murphy, who once looked to be a long shot to be ready for Opening Day, also offered encouraging signs, finishing 1-for-3 with a broken-bat single, a lineout to second base and a strikeout.

"That was the good thing about today,'' said Murphy, who left the game in the sixth after playing five innings at second base. "I didn't feel it at all and was able to just play the game. Now it's just use these next two days to get my legs underneath me as much as possible and look forward to going north.''

Whether Murphy ultimately reaches his goal depends on how his body responds in the next two days. Ideally, Collins wants to play Murphy against the Cardinals on Friday and the Orioles in Sarasota on Saturday.

"I actually was pleasantly surprised at how far along I was. Not only on the base hit, that was trash,'' Murphy said. "The lineout, it was a good swing, it was a good at-bat, especially off of Gio [Gonzalez]. And even on the last at-bat, on the strikeout, it felt good. I fouled a breaking ball off and I felt good in there.''

Collins said he's concerned about whether Murphy will get enough at-bats to prepare for big-league pitching.

"He said he feels great,'' Collins said. "This is not about injuries. This is just trying to get him used to being back playing again. I told him before, there's a reason why spring training's a long time. So we'll see how he comes out of tomorrow.''

Collins added, "Obviously, we'll try to limit the amount of innings he'll play right now, but he's got to get out there.''

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