WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- For the first time this spring, Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy joined the batting-practice group along with Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton and a few other starting position players. Prior to Saturday morning, Murphy had only taken swings off a tee or during soft toss, so
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- For the first time this spring, Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy joined the batting-practice group along with Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton and a few other starting position players. Prior to Saturday morning, Murphy had only taken swings off a tee or during soft toss, so this represented an encouraging step forward in his progress from this winter's microfracture knee surgery.
"It's the first time I've seen overhand pitching," Murphy said. "So you want to reinforce that I can take it and there's not going to be any discomfort, which there wasn't. So I think first and foremost that was a really positive sign. Then I wanted to try to hit it over the fence."
And although he was unsuccessful with that last goal, all can be forgiven for his first time hitting on the field.
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The Nationals have treated Murphy carefully this spring as he rehabs from his right knee surgery, but all along Opening Day has been the goal. The timetable might be difficult to achieve considering Murphy has yet to appear in a Grapefruit League game and his running has been limited to a treadmill, but he is starting to make progress in other areas.
Murphy has been working with first-base coach Tim Bogar on some fielding drills, and on Saturday he took about 15-20 grounders hit directly at him, so he was able to practice his forehand and backhand even if he has not graduated to lateral movements. And Murphy did not feel limited at all with his swing during batting practice, even if he did hold back a little bit.
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"I'm probably treating it like these guys treated batting practice about 3 or 4 weeks ago," Murphy said. "You come in and you're probably a little bit reserved, but I think that if I needed to get my swing off that I could. I didn't have any reservations about hitting today."
Opening Day -- March 29 in Cincinnati -- is a little less than three weeks away, so the fact that Murphy can start swinging without any restrictions is a positive. And although he has been reluctant to put any timetable restrictions upon himself, Murphy does feel encouraged with the progress he has made so far.
"I feel very good about where we're at and the work that we put in," Murphy said. "I feel like I'm responding really well. Each day maybe we'll kind of conquer a new hurdle and continue moving forward."
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.