After surgery, Opening Day in question for Nats’ Murphy

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Daniel Murphy admits that when he has trouble sleeping, he goes to bed visualizing at-bats. Right now, that’s as close as he’s getting to the batting cage.

While his teammates faced live batting practice on Tuesday for the first time this spring, Murphy is still rehabbing from late October micro-fracture knee surgery. But he says he’s excited by his progress.

“Right now it’s a lot of strengthening in the weight room,” he said.

Murphy’s running is limited to the treadmill, while baseball activities include playing catch and taking ground balls on his knees. He knows slow and steady is the way to go in his quest to be ready by Opening Day, or shortly thereafter.

“You see these guys bouncing around and playing — you want to participate; you want to be out there with your teammates,” he said, but he emphasized his patience with the process. “When the training staff lets me go, and it’s time to play, you only want to come off the disabled list once. I don’t want to start playing games and then have to stop. So, that’s kind of the mindset we’re taking right now.”

Manager Dave Martinez is in full agreement with the cautious approach.

“I’m more concerned about rushing him and not being fully ready. When we get him back, we don’t want him to go back on the DL; we want to get him back for the whole season,” he said.

The rehab period for Murphy’s kind of surgery is somewhere between four and six months. His procedure happened Oct. 20 — exactly four months ago Tuesday.

Murphy has certainly made a lot of progress since December, when he arrived at Nats Winterfest on crutches. Even if he’s not ready by Opening Day, Murphy is confident about playing after that.

“(I’m) generally optimistic that when they put me in the lineup, I won’t come out,” he said.

One way or the other, the Nationals are well fortified in the infield with Wilmer Difo and Howie Kendrick. Difo blossomed while filling in for Trea Turner at shortstop last year, and Kendrick was a solid infield/outfield addition after being dealt to Washington in late July.

NATS AND NOTES: Murphy was sporting a new look after his scruffy morning clubhouse arrival. The team provided a barber for Picture Day, and Murphy had a haircut and shave.

“You make a decision today for the next seven months, so I re-evaluated how I look,” he said.

Remember Danny Espinosa’s Fu Manchu and Ian Desmond’s ugly mustache? Murphy was not going to make that scoreboard picture mistake.

Adam Eaton took live batting practice, showing no effects of the knee surgery that ended his 2017 season early with a torn ACL. While Eaton’s recovery is further along than Murphy’s, Martinez said they’re not going to push him either.

New Nationals reliever Joaquin Benoit was in uniform and taking part in infield drills. He looks even bigger than his listed 6-foot-4, 220 pounds. Martinez likes the way he’s throwing.

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