Daniel Murphy started his career with the same early fanfare garnered by such hot prospects as Mike Vail and Gregg Jefferies.
At least for a few games in the 2008 season.
Murphy singled in his first at-bat off then-Houston starter Roy Oswalt. Then, Murphy looked like a star outfielder when he made a catch against the wall in left and threw out a runner at second base to complete a double play.
Murphy went on to get 10 hits in his first 20 at-bats and the early returns continued to look good.
In 2009, Murphy was given the starting job in left, but it became apparent he couldn’t cut it defensively. He went to first base for injured Carlos Delgado and hit .266 with a team-leading 12 homers and 63 RBIs. He was going to be given another opportunity at first last season.
But Murphy hurt his knee in spring training and by the time he was ready to return, rookie Ike Davis had the position nailed down with his glove and bat.
And Murphy never did return, as he tore his right knee in Triple-A when he was taken out at second base by a runner trying to break up a double play.
Now, nearly 26, Murphy is preparing for spring training and another shot at the big leagues. This time, he will be tried at second, where he has played a total of 19 minor league games. Murphy’s natural position is third, but not as long as David Wright is a Met.
At second, Murphy essentially has to beat out Luis Castillo, whom the Mets owe $6 million for 2011. Brad Emaus and Justin Turner both played in the minors last year and Ruben Tejada is probably going to be in Triple-A.
Eating Castillo’s contract would taste less bitter if Murphy could win the job at second.