NEW YORK -- The recovery process took much longer than initially anticipated, but Daniel Murphy made it clear from the beginning that once he was activated from the disabled list, he wanted to be back for good. And after eight months of rehab following microfracture surgery on his right knee,
NEW YORK -- The recovery process took much longer than initially anticipated, but Daniel Murphy made it clear from the beginning that once he was activated from the disabled list, he wanted to be back for good. And after eight months of rehab following microfracture surgery on his right knee, Murphy made his 2018 debut in Tuesday night's 3-0 loss to the Yanks at Yankee Stadium, serving as the Nationals' designated hitter and batting fifth.
It was his first game since Game 5 of the National League Division Series last October, and Murphy acknowledged he was a combination of excited and nervous to be joining the team after missing the first two-plus months of the season.
"I didn't want to come back if I didn't feel like I was ready," said Murphy, who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. "I think I'm in a position to help this team win baseball games."
Adrian Sanchez was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse to make room on the roster.
Murphy played in 10 Minor League rehab games for Double-A Harrisburg, where he went 9-for-37 with six walks, a pair of home runs and seven RBIs. But the Nats were focused on his comfort level running the bases and playing the field. Murphy said running has not been an issue for him, but it did take a while to feel comfortable decelerating and ranging in on ground balls.
Murphy's activation comes with some fortuitous timing in the schedule, with the Nationals playing five straight games on the road against American League opponents, giving him the chance to DH. The Nats plan on easing him back into action with the DH the next few days, with the chance he could return to second base this weekend depending how his knee responds.
"He's got to be totally honest with me and I'm going to be honest with him," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "If I think he needs a day off, he's going to get a day off. He knows that. We have to be real careful. We want him to play, but we also want him to play for the rest of the year and keep him healthy for the whole year."
Murphy's return is a welcome one to the Nationals' lineup, as he complements Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon in the middle of the order. A year ago, Murphy posted a .928 OPS with 23 home runs and has been one of the best hitters in baseball since joining Washington before the 2016 season.
But it is unclear whether he will be limited coming off his knee surgery.
About a week ago, video surfaced of Murphy still favoring his knee while running during his rehab assignment at Harrisburg. But he has been able to hit throughout this process, starting in Spring Training. So the Nationals will welcome some limited range in the field or some slowness on the basepaths if Murphy continues to be the productive hitter from the past two seasons.
"As I get out there, it may not always look pretty," Murphy said. "But my game has never really been pretty."
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.