Boston's No. 14 prospect has scoreless outing in MLB debut

Lefty Murphy strikes out five over 3 1/3 relief innings against Cleveland

June 8th, 2023

CLEVELAND -- A starter for most of his pitching life, Chris Murphy came on for his first Major League appearance in relief -- and with some traffic.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora had a quick message for the team’s No. 14 prospect, as rated by MLB Pipeline.

“The only thing I said to him was, ‘You’re a big leaguer, here we go, have fun,’” said Cora after Boston’s 5-2 loss to the Guardians on Wednesday night.

There Murphy was -- two days after his 25th birthday -- on the mound at Progressive Field with a runner on second base and two outs, his team down three runs.

Murphy was out of the inning on two pitches, getting Josh Naylor to ground his 95.2 mph fastball to shortstop Kiké Hernández.

“Honestly, I blacked out a little bit,” said Murphy. “I tried to take in the first few seconds, but I had a runner on base and I honestly didn't want him to score. So that's the competitor in me, I wanted to leave that runner there. So that was my first focus and then kind of told myself, ‘I'll take it in right after I'm done.’”

There was so much for Murphy to take in.

First of all, there was the performance, and it was a fine one. Over 3 1/3 innings, Murphy gave up two hits and no runs, walking one and striking out five.

At first, it was surreal for the hard-throwing lefty -- who the Red Sox took in the sixth round out of the University of San Diego in 2019.

“At one point yeah, it was like, ‘Wow, I’m pitching in a Major League game,’” said Murphy. “Then, I’m like, ‘It’s 60 feet six inches, so everything's exactly the same.’ Just a few more fans and some better hitters.”

Also, there was the support system, which included his parents, his sister, his girlfriend and perhaps most meaningfully to Murphy, the mother of his late friend Jessica, who he considered a sister. Jessica died of cancer in 2012.

“It was special having Jessica’s mom here,” said Murphy. “She's never watched me play baseball, at least from as far as I can remember. She maybe watched me play in Little League, but she hasn’t watched me play in a long time, so it was special that was she was there. It meant the world.”

Murphy was given two baseballs after the game -- the one he recorded his first out with and another that he got his first strikeout with.

“I’ll probably keep the first strikeout, but my first out is going to Jessica’s mom for sure,” said Murphy.

Then there was Murphy’s own mom, Jennifer, who beamed with pride as she watched her son fulfill a dream.

“It’s crazy. Super crazy,” said Jennifer Murphy, who flew from Los Angeles to Cleveland to take in the festivities. “It’s a whirlwind. The journey has been quite amazing for him. It’s hard to explain what this is like as a parent watching him. It’s hard to believe that’s my kid out there.”

Chris had told his mom this was coming more than a decade ago.

“He’s been talking about this since he was 12,” said Jennifer. “I’m the mom and would never say anything to him. I just always wanted to make sure he had a Plan B, you know, if it didn’t work out. So it was like, ‘Get good grades. You never know what will happen.’ When he was in high school, I remember taking him to showcases, and then his college scholarship came along. He’s always had the eye on the prize.”

Ashley Murphy, a former softball star at the University of Hawaii, won the travel award for big brother’s debut. She flew in from Hawaii, with connections in Los Angeles and Washington D.C., prolonging the journey to 14 or 15 hours.

“It was worth it, for sure,” said Ashley. “I couldn’t miss this. When he was in college, I wasn’t really able to make it to a lot of his games because we were playing at the same time. Now that I’m out of college, there’s no reason for me not to. I dropped everything. I had mentioned to people, 'When he gets the call, I don’t care where I am. I’m going wherever he is.'”

While Murphy is expected to get optioned to Triple-A Worcester to make way for lefty Matt Dermody to get called up to start on Thursday, he created quite the first impression.

“Excellent,” said Cora. “That was cool to see. Good fastball, good breaking ball. We stretched him out. I’m glad he can say he’s a big leaguer.”