This September call-up for Tom Murphy is a little different than his original call-up around the same time in 2015. That time Nick Hundley had just gone down with a cervical neck strain that ended his season. Murphy got a phone call from the Rockies just days after he had returned home after the conclusion of his minor league season with the Albuquerque Isotopes.
“There were no days off last year,” Murphy said. “[Now] I feel like I have more of a routine. I’m familiar with where everything is. I’m feeling comfortable.”
That comfort may also come from the Rockies’ youth movement. Nine players have made their Major League debuts for the team this season. While that list doesn’t include Murphy, his .327 batting average in Albuquerque and .400/.449/.726 slash line with eight home runs since the All-Star break are proof of that comfort. He more than deserves a spot on the big league roster. Confiding in familiar faces only helps solidify that spot.
No face stands out more than Stephen Cardullo’s. Murphy said that in Triple-A Albuquerque, he, Jordan Patterson and Cardullo would talk about pitchers strategy and hitting nearly all day. Murphy credits those talks for making him a better hitter.
Cardullo went a little further.
“Murphy is a great player. He knows so much about the game,” he said. “Throughout Triple-A, me, him and Paterson we’re always helping each other out. If something didn’t feel right we’d go like ‘Hey man, what’s going on here?'”
Cardullo has come a long way from excruciating travel in the independent Canadian-American Association. He was invited to the Rockies spring training team in 2015 and made the Triple-A Albuquerque team. On his 29th birthday, in his first home stand, he hit his first big league home run; later that day he hit his first grand slam.
“Obviously I know my swing, he knows his swing but we kind of know each other’s swings as well. So when we were in a funk or whatever, we’d go to one another. The level of support for each other is tremendous.The success we’ve had in Triple-A was great. I thank [Triple-A manager Glenallen] Hill and Murph for that. I absolutely [credit them for my journey here]. Tom has helped me out a lot and we’re really good friends,” Cardullo said.
Now in the Majors, Murphy looks to Hundley to make sure he is on the same page. After his first start of 2016 in the Majors, Murphy was nowhere to be found for the media. Turns out he was hitting the weight room. Maybe 2016 isn’t so different after all. There are no off days for Murphy.
“[I am most impressed with Murphy’s] desire to improve,” Hundley said. “The work ethic is unmatched. He’s smart. He understands himself. I think his body awareness is off the charts. He’s just going to improve. Any credit that you give me would be taking away from him. Any time you have guys like Tom and Tony [Wolters], they’re supremely talented at a young age and controllable. It’s a great spot for the Rockies to be in.”
In a pinch-hit appearance Sunday against the Diamondbacks, Murphy hit a 482-foot home run, which is in the top five longest home runs in the Majors in 2016. It was his first home run of the season and first Major League career pinch-hit home run. Power has never been a question with Murphy. He said he wants to improve most with his consistency overall, not just behind the plate.
Manager Walt Weiss said he has seen a much more solid approach at the plate from Murphy since last September. He pointed out that he has worked really hard with rhythm when he is batting. Defensively, Weiss sees his young catcher setting a lower target and looking freer behind the plate. With Hundley hitting well over the last month, Weiss said he isn’t going to forget about his starting catcher just to see his younger players.
Even though one of Murphy’s mentors went down last year, he said he felt prepared at that time – like he was supposed to be here. But for Murphy, the circumstances couldn’t have been more different.
“Last year we were kind of out of the race by the time I got up here. I feel like this year we are right in the midst of it,” Murphy said. “I just want to be as consistent as possible and help out best I can, that’s all I can ask for.”
Murphy is supposed to be here. Not much will be different in September 2017.