For all the struggles the Albuquerque Isotopes have had this season (they are nine games below .500), production from the catcher position hasn’t been one of them.
And the addition last week of Tommy Murphy, who Baseball America ranks as the Colorado Rockies No. 4 minor league prospect, means that isn’t likely to change any time soon.
After going 1-for-4 with a run in Wednesday night’s 4-1 win over the Salt Lake Bees, Murphy is hitting .316 through his first five games. He was in lineup as a designated hitter on Wednesday, a game that started at 8:47 p.m. after to a 1 hour, 42 minute delay for inclement weather in the area.
But far more important than his performance at the plate is what he can bring to the team behind the plate.
“Any team I’m on, I like to try and be a leader,” said the 24-year-old Murphy. “The catcher’s back there, he’s handling every pitch. He’s got a pitching staff to deal with. On top of that, he’s got to hit. I try to be a leader for everybody on the field. If I can accomplish that, it seems like everything else falls into place.”
Things have certainly been falling into as of late for the 2012 third round draft pick of the Rockies out of the University of Buffalo.
Through the first 72 games this season, Murphy hit .249 with 13 home runs, 17 doubles and five stolen bases for Double-A New Britain (Conn.). He then left the team to play with Team USA in the Pan Am Games in Toronto earlier this month – a silver medal-winning experience he said helped rejuvenate him before moving up to Triple-A Albuquerque.
“That type of atmosphere teaches you a lot about what it should be that you’re trying to achieve,” Murphy said. “It was really good for me.”
Now that his experience in Canada is complete, the struggling ‘Topes are certainly happy to have him, even if catcher seems to be one spot they don’t really need help.
Before a right quadriceps injury June 1, catcher Ryan Casteel was hitting .354 through 99 at bats and has started taking batting practice again recently. Since June 5, coinciding with becoming the everyday catcher, Dustin Garneau’s batting average has jumped from .222 to .288 entering Wednesday’s game, and he’s hit 10 of his 14 home runs in that time.
And now, Murphy joins that Isotopes mix. But he said there are not any awkward moments working with other talented players at his position who are all working toward the same big league goal, even if it is against one another.
“It’s one of those things you have to understand as teammates and just not let it happen,” Muprhy said. “… We understand there’s a lot out of our control, so we don’t let that affect us.”
Of former teammate Garneau, in particular, Murphy had especially high praise.
“He’s a great catcher,” Murphy said. “I think he’s the best catcher in the organization. This year, he’s really starting to hit. He’s been great. He’s not a guy who is going to hold grudges (against another catcher) or anything like that. He’s been a mentor for me, for sure.”
As for his goals while with the Isotopes, Murphy said it’s rather simple.
“Really it’s about consistency,” he said. “Showing them I can do the right things day in and day out at a high level. That’s what I’m working on and so far I feel like it’s been going pretty good since I’ve been here.”