But on Wednesday night, Murphy was everything the Mets had hoped for and more heading into the season, in the process showcasing how much he's grown in his first full year in the big leagues.
Murphy started the night with a double to left field, the Mets' first extra-base hit since Friday. Two innings later, he turned on an inside pitch from Hiroki Kuroda for another two-bagger -- this one down the right-field line.
It was a sight to see for Murphy, who has been busted inside most of this season after pitchers learned of his prowess going the other way.
"What you're seeing is he is beginning to adjust to the adjustments that have been made to him," manager Jerry Manuel said. "It's good to see that he's pulling the ball. He almost has to because of the adjustment that the league is making."
It's left to be seen whether Manuel will now adjust how he uses Murphy. Murphy has been sitting against left-handed pitching most of the season, even though he has a .290 average against southpaws in a small sample of 31 at-bats.
So even after Murphy's highlight-reel night, which included perhaps the defensive play of the season's first half at first base, Manuel decided to go with Fernando Tatis at first.
"If another lefty was going tomorrow, then he probably would play today," Manuel said of Murphy. "But with a team where we're going to face three righties [this weekend against the Reds], this gives him a chance to keep what he has going and not let a lefty get him out of that."
Tatis, however, has not had much success against Dodgers starter Randy Wolf, with a 2-for-28 lifetime mark facing the left-hander.
It's all part of a delicate balancing act for Manuel, who has had to juggle lineups, positions and defensive alignments with three key everyday players on the disabled list. Manuel said he considered starting Murphy at first base and Tatis at second, but didn't want to further compromise his defense.
Ryan Church, who has spent almost all of his Mets career in right field, started in center field on Thursday -- something that may be more commonplace now that Fernando Martinez was placed on the disabled list with inflammation in his right knee.
"With the way we're built right now, it might be better to go pitching, defense and then offense," Manuel said. "If you can pitch and catch the ball, you've got a chance."
Manuel also acknowledged that Citi Field's dimensions place a higher demand on a team's defense.
"This not being an offensive ballpark, then it's difficult to take that chance, saying, 'Let's get another bat in,'" Manuel said. "So I have to weigh all those different things and determine whether or not it's a good matchup."
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less