PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Once considered a long shot for Opening Day, second baseman Daniel Murphy is now a strong bet to suit up Monday for the Mets at Citi Field.
Assuming Murphy feels no pain in his right intercostal muscle when he awakes Thursday morning, the Mets will start him at second base for their next Grapefruit League game against the Nationals. That is telling, considering manager Terry Collins made it clear he would not use Murphy in an official game unless he was sure the second baseman would be healthy for Opening Day.
"It's significant for me because I feel like I can help this team win," Murphy said. "That's why I want to be out there. I didn't want to risk anything long-term making sure I got to Opening Day, but that has always been a goal, is to be ready."
Though Murphy's exact plan is flexible, he hopes to log a heavy Grapefruit League workload this week to fine-tune his timing against Major League pitching. Last weekend, after appearing in a Minor League game, Murphy joked that the ball looked like an aspirin. This week, he said, "it looks like a golf ball."
"So we're getting closer," Murphy said, laughing.
It now seems possible that the Mets could pencil both Murphy and third baseman David Wright into their Opening Day lineup. Wright took batting practice again Wednesday, and expects to play in another Minor League game on Friday. He could also return to Grapefruit League play this weekend, though Wright does not consider that necessary to be ready for Opening Day.