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Murphy returning to approach after down year

Outfielder looking to shorten swing, keep 'easy' mindset at plate on new ballclub

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Last spring, David Murphy thought a lot about who wasn't on his team. This time around, he says he won't make the same mistake.

Murphy had become a key component in the outfield for a Texas Rangers unit that went to the World Series twice and established its franchise as a perennial contender in the American League. He had emerged as a player who could do a little bit of everything, like in the 2010 regular season -- the first year the Rangers went to the Fall Classic -- when he put up an offensive line of .291/.358/.449, hit 12 home runs, drove in 65 runs and stole 14 bases.

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The Rangers made it to the Series again in 2011, and in 2012, Murphy hit .304 with 15 homers and 61 RBIs, as the Rangers qualified for the postseason for a third consecutive season.

Prior to his final contract year in 2013, however, Murphy watched as several of the Rangers' top offensive players walked out the door. Josh Hamilton signed as a free agent with the Angels, Mike Napoli did the same with the Red Sox and Michael Young was traded to the Phillies.

At Spring Training in Surprise, Ariz., and into the regular season, Murphy put pressure on himself to make up for what was lost in the lineup. The results? Not very David Murphy-esque.

"I did it to myself," Murphy said. "I think last year, I got a little pull-conscious. I tried to hit for a little more power and my swing got a little bit long. I was just inconsistent. Obviously the bottom line was the bottom line."

The bottom line was this: a .220 batting average, 13 homers, 45 RBIs, and what might have been a three-year free agent deal for more than $30 million (he made $5.775 million in 2012) ending up being a two-year, $12 million contract with Cleveland.

"You probably get a chance at him because he had a down year, similar to [Ryan] Raburn the year before," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "If he would have had his normal year, he probably wouldn't have been as available. And we jumped in early because he was a target for us. Not only do we like him as a player, but he complements our team really well, and he'll fit in perfectly with what we're doing."

So far this spring, everything seems to be going as planned.

Murphy said the comfort of knowing he'll be in the same place for two seasons has given him some peace of mind, and that it has been easy to begin building relationships with teammates in a relaxed clubhouse.

The fact that the Indians made the postseason last year hasn't hurt, either.

"When you've been a part of teams that are used to winning, you want to be part of something like that if you have to leave," Murphy said. "It was a no-brainer coming here. These guys won 92 games [in 2013]. They're trending in the right direction."

Murphy's mindset appears to be doing the same.

He told Francona right away that he had identified the root cause of last year's downturn, and he's making strides toward correcting it and getting back to being the Murphy of not so long ago.

"I've been working on using the whole field and making sure to maintain a short swing and an easy approach and not try to do too much," Murphy said.

"I think I'm capable of hitting for power, and I proved the year before that I could hit .300, so it was like I wanted to add the power to my game. I think power is just something that comes with good swings and a consistent approach. It's something you can't force, and I think I tried to do that last year.

"This is a very well-balanced lineup. There are plenty of guys up and down this lineup that are going to produce, so I'm going to go back to being me, try to hit line drives up the middle, and every now and then, if I get a mistake, do a little damage.

"I know the player I am."

Doug Miller is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.

Cleveland Indians, David Murphy