Posted on June 13, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
Things have not gone according to plan for the Washington Nationals this season. But they finally have a big piece of the puzzle back in place. The Nationals activated second baseman Daniel Murphy from the DL on Tuesday for his long-awaited season debut. Murphy endured an eight-month rehab following microfracture surgery on his right knee. He also missed Washington’s first 63 games of the season. But he’s back in the lineup and ready to help the Nationals capture a third straight NL East title.
It was a grueling rehab process for Murphy. He endured a few minor setbacks and took longer than both he and the team would have liked to return. During that time, the Nationals also lost his replacement, Howie Kendrick, who suffered a season-ending Achilles injury last month. But Murphy was insistent that he didn’t rush his return.
“I didn’t want to come back if I didn’t feel like I was ready,” Murphy said Monday. “I think I’m in a position to help this team win baseball games.”
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Of course, Murphy went 0 for 4 in Tuesday’s game against the Yankees. It was the second straight game the Nationals were shutout. Nevertheless, the team knows that Murphy is capable of making a huge impact on their season.
Outside of Bryce Harper, he’s arguably been Washington’s best hitter the past two seasons. In 2016, Murphy hit .347 with an OPS of .985. Last season, Muprhy’s numbers dropped a little, but he still hit .322 with an OPS of .928. The Nationals will gladly take that kind of production from him this season.
In addition to Kendrick, both Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Wieters are currently on the DL. The Nationals have also played most of the season without Adam Eaton, who returned from injury last weekend. Amidst all of those injuries, the Nationals have become overly reliant on Harper and Matt Adams to lead their lineup.
The likes of Trea Turner, Michael Taylor, and even Anthony Rendon have all been up and down offensively this year. The Nationals are hopeful that the return of Murphy and Eaton can lead to more offensive consistency in support of one of the better pitching staffs in the National League.
That being said, the Nationals will be cautious with the 33-year old Murphy. Washington activated him at a time when they play five straight games in an American League ballpark, enabling him to serve as a DH. Nationals manager Dave Martinez also says he won’t be afraid to sit Murphy if he needs a day off.
“He’s got to be totally honest with me and I’m going to be honest with him,” Martinez told reporters Tuesday. “If I think he needs a day off, he’s going to get a day off. He knows that. We have to be real careful. We want him to play, but we also want him to play for the rest of the year and keep him healthy for the whole year.”
Obviously, the Nationals will have to wait and see how long it takes Murphy to get going offensively. There is also no guarantee he can replicate his productivity from the past two seasons. However, despite all of their injuries, the Nationals are just one game out of first place in the NL East. In theory, Murphy could be the player they need to get them over the top and back in the postseason in 2018.