Lennon: Murphy, Mets suffer another blow
In trying to get Daniel Murphy back to the majors, the Mets unwittingly ended his season.
On Wednesday night, while making only his second start at second base, Murphy was wiped out by a dangerous rolling slide from Syracuse's Leonard Davis on a double play.
As a result, Murphy was examined Thursday at the Hospital for Special Surgery, where an MRI revealed that he suffered a "high-grade" MCL tear of the right knee. A team spokesman said surgery is not necessary, but the "new" injury will cost him four to six months. It's a stunning blow, especially after how this season began for him.
Murphy, 25, was supposed to be the Mets' Opening Day first baseman right up until the final week of spring training, when he was hurt in a rundown during a Grapefruit League game. It turned out to be a Grade I sprain of his right knee, and Murphy spent the first two months of the season rehabbing in Port St. Lucie before joining Buffalo.
But the emergence of Ike Davis forced the Mets to change their plans for Murphy, who now was looked at as a potential utility player, alternating between first base, second, third and leftfield for the Bisons. Ideally, the Mets eventually wanted Murphy for second base, with Luis Castillo likely headed to the disabled list Friday with painful bone bruises in both feet.
Jerry Manuel was eager to add Murphy's bat to his sputtering lineup, and he talked Wednesday in San Diego about possibly bringing him up in the near future. That was only hours before Murphy was taken out on the double play.
"I think what we're trying to do with Murphy is play him in different spots," Manuel said. "I feel very confident and comfortable with him at first base, then it gives us some flexibility, and then he can come up and spell some people here."
But Murphy's days as the Mets' first baseman were numbered from the moment Davis was called up April 19. Once the Mets decided to make that commitment - something Omar Minaya had insisted they would not do immediately after Murphy's injury - only a prolonged slump on Davis' part would create a potential opening for him.
After Murphy flunked his chance in leftfield last season, his only remaining shot was to become a versatile Mark DeRosa type, a strong offensive player capable of handling a variety of positions. Murphy did not seem overly thrilled by the idea and agreed to it reluctantly, knowing that he didn't really have much choice.
"My situation is to play quality baseball wherever they send me," Murphy said last month of his pending assignment. "That's all I can control. I've played the outfield, I've played second base before, I've played first base, I've played third, so it won't be completely new to me wherever they send me. It will just be consistent reps just like it is anywhere else. Try to get more comfortable at whatever position."
The most challenging position was second base, where he had played briefly during the Arizona Fall League after the 2008 season. He was named one of the AFL's top prospects, as a second baseman, but that stint was cut short when he suffered a Grade 2 strain of his right hamstring and had to be sent home. That was the extent of Murphy's on-the-job training at second base before he showed up in Buffalo.
Beginning in 2008, with the injury to Moises Alou, Murphy had spent most of his time learning leftfield and eventually won the starting job out of spring training in 2009. But Murphy struggled so badly during the first two months that he was in danger of being demoted - until the Mets, out of desperation, switched him to first base when they learned Carlos Delgado needed hip surgery.
Murphy did an adequate job for someone thrown into the position, and he spent last winter and spring training trying to improve his defensive skills at first.
That all changed, however, when his knee buckled in that Grapefruit League game.
The Mets hoped he again would be a quick study at second base, but that backfired Wednesday night.
As raw as Murphy was at the position, the replay showed that Davis' slide was reckless. Murphy was well behind the bag in delivering the throw to first, but Davis rolled over the base and into his legs, forcing him to be helped off the field.
Who knows what position Murphy will return to when he takes the field again?