Murphy and Moss finally get to be on same team in majors
GOODYEAR, Ariz. — When David Murphy landed in Phoenix on Sunday, his first stop wasn’t to check in at the Indians Player Development Complex. It was to have dinner with Brandon Moss and his family.
After coming up together through the Red Sox organization, Moss and Murphy are together in the majors for the first time as members of the Indians. Even though both are vying for the same spot — right field — Murphy isn’t going to let a battle for playing time affect a long-lasting friendship.
"I feel like we are picking up right where we left off. That’s the fun part of this game," Murphy said. "You develop relationships and friendships. Some come and go, and a friendship like this is significant."
Moss and Murphy have played together at every level of pro ball except the majors. With a glaring need for a power hitter in the middle of the order, that changed during the Winter Meetings when the Indians acquired Moss from the Athletics.
The friendship began when they were teammates at the Red Sox short-season single-A affiliate in Lowell in 2003 and also roomed together in the Arizona Fall League in 2005.
Both were called up to the Red Sox in 2007 but at different times. By the time Moss was called up, Murphy had been traded to the Rangers.
"When I got traded over here, just knowing that not only am I going to have a familiar face, but a really good friend, it was great," said Moss, who added that Murphy was like a big brother to him early in his minor-league career.
In his first season with the Indians, Murphy had a .262/.319/.385 slash line. He was also 10th in the American League with men on base, batting .326 and was 36-for-100 with runners in scoring position.
When Moss was acquired, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti called Murphy to discuss the situation. The transparency continued this week when Murphy met with Antonetti and Francona.
When asked about Moss, Murphy has had the same response throughout the offseason — the organization made a move to bolster the roster and at this stage of his career, Murphy is focused on getting back to the playoffs (the Rangers made the World Series in 2010-11).
"I think every player wants to know where they stand and that is a big strength here. You don’t get that everywhere," Murphy said. "You don’t like coming to the ballpark every day wondering where you stand. It’s nice coming here not having to worry about that or what is wondering behind closed doors."
The Indians’ expectations for Murphy are for him to prepare like he normally does and to not think of his role as just a bench player. Nor is Francona thinking of how to juggle playing time between Moss, Murphy and Nick Swisher as a "situation".
While Swisher is making some gains in his rehab from double knee surgery, Moss continues to be a little bit ahead as the Indians hope he is ready for Cactus League games by the middle of March.
Added Francona: "When we break spring training if everyone is healthy and productive we’re probably going to have to make it work. Part of me hopes that is the case because that means everyone is healthy and productive, and then we put our best team on the field. I don’t want to sell him short and make him an extra guy this early because that isn’t fair to him."
During his time in Texas, Murphy had gone into spring trainings not knowing how much playing time he was going to get. By the end of the year, he would end up averaging around 400 plate appearances and everything would work out. That is one major reason Murphy hasn’t been too fazed about his prospects this season.
It also does help that no matter what happens, Murphy at least has his best friend to lean on.
"At the end of the day my mindset is that regardless of what happens I am living my dream as a major league baseball player. I get to come to the park every day and do what I love to do. There are people who would kill for what I do, and I don’t take that for granted. Whether I am in the lineup or not I am going to enjoy what I do."