KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The first ball that came Daniel Murphy's way Tuesday at Osceola County Stadium was just what the defense doctor ordered -- a tailor-made double-play relay after the Astros' Carlos Lee grounded to third with two on and one out. It was just the sort of play Murphy has set his mind to mastering on the back fields in Port St. Lucie, just the sort of play he is hoping to see with regularity here in the Grapefruit League. And he blew it.
Murphy got the toss from third baseman Vinny Rottino and cleared the bag for the first out, but he air-mailed his throw to first, allowing Lee to reach and Jason Bourgeois to score on the error. "Other than throwing it into the third row," Murphy said with a smile, "I felt good about it." He felt good about it because Spring Training is all about repetition, and these in-game experiences are Murphy's opportunities to make himself a capable defender at second base. And even if the experiences don't go as planned, they can at least be used as learning experiences. "I don't want to see our pitchers put anybody on," he said, "but if they're going to, put 'em on first and let's get a double-play ball. Right now I need double-play balls. I need 'em, I need 'em, I need 'em. And I think, as I continue to get them, my heart rate will slow down on them." Murphy has been working on the transition of the ball from the glove to the hand on double-play relays. He's trying to shorten his stroke in order to get a quicker release. "I can do it on Field 3 back home in St. Lucie until I'm blue in the face," he said, "but I need to do some of these things in the game. If I'm going to boot one, I'd rather do it on March 6 than April 6."