WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy needed crutches to walk around the Washington Convention Center floor during Nationals Winterfest on Saturday, although he wore a smile on his face when he talked about how encouraged he was by his rehab process.
It's been about two months since Murphy underwent debridement and microfracture surgery on his right knee at the end of the season, and his status continues to improve. The Nationals have said they feel he is on track to be ready for Opening Day. Murphy declined to give a specific timetable for his return, but he reiterated that optimism about how his knee has improved.
"It's going to be a progression," Murphy said. "I don't want to put any timetables on it … [Nats director of medical services] Harvey Sharman was able to come down to Jacksonville, [Fla.,] take a look at my knee and said it's in a really good position right now, being eight weeks in. I was really pleased to hear that, kind of a validation of some of the work that I've done."
It is unclear how long the knee injury was hampering Murphy during the 2017 season or to what extent.
Murphy was not even sure exactly what caused the injury -- whether it was acute or a result of wear and tear during the season. It wasn't even until the final three games of the National League Division Series that he sensed something was wrong. He still finished with a .928 OPS and 23 home runs in a campaign that earned him another trip to the All-Star Game, but at times during the second half, he did not appear to have the same sort of power at the plate as he did earlier in the season.
"It just kind of felt like the normal aches and pains of a season," Murphy said. "I didn't really think it would be this significant once they got the MRI."
Finding a timetable for Murphy has been difficult, considering not many baseball players undergo this kind of operation. One player who did was Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, Murphy's friend and former teammate on the Mets, after the 2013 season. Turner can be a bit of a standard for Murphy, considering Turner still played in more than 100 games and hit .340 for the Dodgers the following season.
The two have spoken only minimally since the surgery, however, since Turner played in the World Series this year with the Dodgers and also got married this offseason.
"In what little we have spoken, he's given me a ton of assurances that if I'm sensible about this and treat it the right way, it should hopefully be healthy," Murphy said.
The Nationals also are operating as if they are encouraged by Murphy's progress. General manager Mike Rizzo said this week at the Winter Meetings that Murphy is progressing well enough to be ready for Opening Day. Rizzo has also minimized the idea of needing to change his offseason plans for a backup second baseman, in part because of his confidence in Wilmer Difo, but also because Washington believes Murphy will make a full recovery.
"I've had enough people who were really, really smart in the industry say, 'You're going to be healthy if you treat this the right way, if you're sensible about it,'" Murphy said. "That's the goal right now, just to be smart with it. I'll be ready to play when it tells me I'm ready to play."