WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Two weeks from Thursday, on March 29, the Nationals will begin their season in Cincinnati against the Reds. In 10 days, the Nats will wrap up their Grapefruit League schedule and depart from West Palm Beach.
Yet, second baseman Daniel Murphy is still limited to taking batting practice on the field and fielding grounders on the infield hit directly to him and has not yet graduated to moving laterally. He has only recently started running with 100 percent of his body weight, where he previously had been restricted to a treadmill.
The Nationals are encouraged with Murphy's progress as he works his way back from microfracture surgery on his right knee during the offseason. But considering the cautious approach the team has taken with Murphy thus far, appearing in an actual game still seems far away.
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And yet, the Nationals do not want to rule Murphy out for Opening Day. They want to wait and see how much progress he makes during the coming week to better determine his status.
"This week will be important for him," general manager Mike Rizzo said. "Let's see how fast he progresses. Obviously we're not going to rush him. Opening Day is just a day. We're not going to rush him and force-feed him into anything. We still feel optimistic that he'll be ready, but we won't rush him."
Even as the Nationals have remained optimistic about Murphy's status since his surgery in October, he was always going to be racing against the clock. The typical timetable for recovery from microfracture surgery is about 4-6 months.
Washington also has remained cautious with Murphy during his recovery. He has stated numerous times this spring that once he starts playing in games, he does not want to have to stop or suffer any sort of setbacks.
If Murphy is not ready to join the team when it heads back to Washington after Spring Training, he will likely remain in West Palm Beach, where Minor League camp will continue for a week longer and Rizzo believes "there will be ample opportunities to get him at-bats."
So, it would be difficult to imagine a scenario where Washington rushes Murphy just so he can start the season on time. The Nationals have depth at the position in Howie Kendrick -- who started at second base for Thursday's game against the Astros -- and Wilmer Difo off the bench. And when healthy, Murphy is one of the cornerstones in the middle of their lineup along with Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon.
"We want to make sure that [Murphy] is 100 percent ready," manager Dave Martinez said. "So we get into the season and he doesn't have to miss days, or he regresses a little bit and his knee starts swelling up or whatever. We're going to give him as much time as we can."