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Murphy trying to accelerate return to Rox

First baseman played seven innings in Saturday's Triple-A rehab start
@harding_at_mlb
April 21, 2019

DENVER -- When first baseman Daniel Murphy left two nights ago to begin his injury rehab assignment at Triple-A Albuquerque, he told Rockies teammates he’d be back “in a couple days” -- which would be a quick reacclimation to game action. But it appears Murphy, who suffered a left index

DENVER -- When first baseman Daniel Murphy left two nights ago to begin his injury rehab assignment at Triple-A Albuquerque, he told Rockies teammates he’d be back “in a couple days” -- which would be a quick reacclimation to game action.

But it appears Murphy, who suffered a left index finger fracture in the season’s second game, is serious about rejoining Colorado quickly. Murphy went 1-for-5 Saturday night in a 12-4 Albuquerque victory over Tacoma. The key stat, though, was that he played seven innings. He then played all nine innings Sunday in Albuquerque's 23-2 win over Tacoma, going 1-for-4 with two walks.

“In most cases, when a guy’s out for three or four weeks, they play five innings [in the first rehab game] and get a couple of at-bats, so this is a good thing,” said Rockies manager Bud Black, who said he and the organization will trust Murphy’s judgment about when to return.

With Nolan Arenado having found his power stroke, Charlie Blackmon coming off two strong games, Trevor Story having a 10-game hitting streak and Ryan McMahon and David Dahl back from injury, the offense is rounding into expected form, with 32 hits in the past four games.

But all is not perfect. The Rockies left seven on base Friday but beat the Phillies, 4-3, and they left 10 -- many at the worst times -- in an 8-5 loss to Philadelphia on Saturday.

Murphy, signed for two years and $24 million during the offseason, has the type of at-bats that can influence a lineup full of overaggressive players and youngsters.

“There’s a really solid at-bat of controlling the strike zone -- swinging at strikes, taking balls, there’s a history of not striking out a lot, putting the ball in play -- that has a tendency to carry over to the rest of the group,” Black said. “Getting to know him like I have over the last three months, the baseball conversations are great in the dugout and in the clubhouse. His presence as an active player will be seen. It’ll be subtle, might not be something that everyone will notice, but we will.”

Black said the big concern is fielding and the impact of throws to the glove hand. Murphy was hurt when he jammed his finger into the ground while making a defensive play.

The right direction
After well-documented struggles last season, righty reliever Bryan Shaw has solid overall numbers through 11 appearances -- a 1.50 ERA and a .175 batting average against.

For Shaw to truly be back to his form with the Indians, which led the Rockies to sign him for three years and $27 million before the 2018 season, he’ll have to improve on seven walks to just four strikeouts. Some of the situations certainly could have escalated. But Shaw’s offseason adjustments are making a difference.

“I wouldn’t say that he’s totally reinventing himself, but he understands that as you move on in your career, you have to make some adjustments,” Black said. “Last year, it was a lot of heavy fastball usage, and his fastball cuts so much, coming off a period of time in Cleveland where it was successful. Last year, it wasn’t quite as sharp.

“This year, for lack of a better term, he’s pitched more. He’s changed speeds a little bit better. The shape of his breaking pitches is a little bit different. He’s placed an emphasis on keeping the ball down.”

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.