Q&A: MetsBlog talks to Daniel Murphy about his defense

Last week, MetsBlog Michael Baron conducted the following Q&A with Daniel Murphy in St. Lucie:

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Michael Baron: How’s your knee feeling?

Daniel Murphy: Feels good. Feels really good. It was a good off-season. I was able to strengthen it. Since I’ve been through the injury before, I knew what to expect and I had an idea on how to attack it. The Mets gave me a workout program, so I took what I had, molded it and I think I am in a good spot.

Michael Baron: Unlike in years past, when you’ve been jockeyed from one position to another, you’re going into the season with some stability at second base. Does that reduce any mental strains or concerns and help your development at second base?

Daniel Murphy: I’m still going to prepare myself to win the job; I don’t think I’ve won it yet. I’ve been given an opportunity to win it. I know Justin Turner is going to come in and think he can help this team win ballgames too. Though we will both be working for the same position, we are working towards the same goal – to play in the playoffs. It will be nice to play one position and focus on that daily, but I will still prepare myself to win a job.

Michael Baron: One thing I’ve observed with you is your attitude, and you’ve connected with the fans from that standpoint. You obviously have a goal and a vision for this team, which is to make it to postseason. What are some of the positives you see here which can help achieve that goal?

Daniel Murphy: Ike Davis – he would’ve gone to the All-Star Game if he didn’t get hurt. I truly believe that. It’s tough to see Jose Reyes go, but Ruben Tejada finished really strong last year. I was able to watch him offensively, we know what he can do defensively. I read a couple of reports this winter he grades out a tick better defensively than Jose does. David Wright, each day, gets further away from his back injury – he looks great and he always looks good. Duda played real well last year, our bullpen is improved. It’s a good roster, and I think we’re going to win baseball games.

Michael Baron: What have you been working on specifically with Tim Teufel on at second base to help you become the second baseman you expect to be?

Daniel Murphy: The main focus is positioning. We both feel I’m athletic enough to play the position. Part of my struggles have been due to poor positioning, especially on the double play. I’m not good enough yet, and we both know this, to get to the bag late and still turn the double play. What we’ve decided to do is I will play closer to the bag. I may give up more in the hole, but I will get to the bag on time and be able to dictate my pivot rather than stumbling over the bag. I think with that it will allow me to slow the game down – it won’t move as quickly. I feel really comfortable there now, especially with the positioning and the double plays in game speed.

Michael Baron: What is a strength of yours at second base?

Daniel Murphy: I feel I am a fairly athletic second baseman. I feel I have made some pretty good plays there. My biggest thing is consistency – make the plays you’re supposed to make. That’s what it’s all about. I need to become as consistent and efficient as possible at making those plays. If I get a two-hopper with one out as a double play ball, it’s gotta get turned, and it’s gotta go through me.

Michael Baron: Are there situations where over-thinking comes into play for you defensively, or do you feel like you simply have to make fundamental improvements?

Daniel Murphy: As far as the bang-bang plays are concerned, when those happen, your athletic ability takes over, and you end up doing what I’ve been trained to do since I was five, which was catch it and get it in the air. On the routine plays, I have to get more consistent and know that with those routine plays, I just have to make them. It doesn’t have to be spectacular. I just have to catch it, and deliver the ball to either first or second.

Michael Baron: What are some of the offensive improvements you’re seeking to make this season?

Daniel Murphy: Driving the ball. My average dictated I had a good year and I was able to hit a fair amount of doubles. But I’ve got to drive the ball, because we all know about the learning curve at second base. I will not be put at second base because I am the best defender there in the National League – we are viewing it as an offensive position and I feel like I need to drive the ball. I got in the weight room to try and get stronger, but I’m also going to work with Dave Hudgens on walking more. That’s basically a little more focus, understanding the pitches I can hit and handle, and taking the ones I can’t.

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