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Murphy hits off tee, Opening Day status unclear

Second baseman recovering from microfracture surgery on right knee
MLB.com @JamalCollier

JUPITER, Fla. -- Time has started to become a factor as to whether or not Daniel Murphy will be ready to begin the season on time, but he has started to make some positive strides. Murphy has started hitting off a tee and playing soft toss, manager Dave Martinez said Monday, an encouraging development for the Nationals as the All-Star second baseman recovers from last offseason's microfracture surgery on his right knee.

"He knows what he needs to do," Martinez said of Murphy. "He knows his body better than anybody. He's working diligently to get ready for the season."

JUPITER, Fla. -- Time has started to become a factor as to whether or not Daniel Murphy will be ready to begin the season on time, but he has started to make some positive strides. Murphy has started hitting off a tee and playing soft toss, manager Dave Martinez said Monday, an encouraging development for the Nationals as the All-Star second baseman recovers from last offseason's microfracture surgery on his right knee.

"He knows what he needs to do," Martinez said of Murphy. "He knows his body better than anybody. He's working diligently to get ready for the season."

Murphy underwent surgery shortly after the season ended in October. Although the injury is not common among baseball players, the typical timetable is roughly four-to-six months, so his status to begin the season has always been a bit of a question mark.

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The Nationals have maintained, however, that Opening Day is the target date for Murphy, even with a little more than three weeks until the season begins in Cincinnati.

The Nationals have also maintained that they would not rush Murphy back. He had been doing limited activity to start camp -- some light running, taking ground balls from his knees -- so the fact that he can at least begin to swing a bat is a positive sign. But he is still not taking grounders in the infield, and is not yet close to appearing in a Grapefruit League game.

Washington can be careful with Murphy because it knows it has options to fill in at second base. Howie Kendrick has played most of his innings this spring at second and Wilmer Difo could also slide in as the starter, if needed.

"We're going to be smart about everything," Martinez said. "When he comes back, we want him back 100 percent, not 70 or 80 percent."

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Daniel Murphy