Plate Discipline Keys Hot Start By Yankees' Murton





NEW YORK—A new understanding of the strike zone helped first baseman Luke Murton open eyes with a blistering start to the 2011 season.

"So far, his plate discipline has improved dramatically," farm director Mark Newman said of the 6-foot-4, 225-pound righthanded hitter. "He has matured and has an understanding of what pitches he can handle and what pitches he doesn't handle."

In his first 17 games for high Class A Tampa, the 24-year-old Murton batted 22-for-63 (.349) with two homers and 10 RBIs. He had whiffed 15 times and drawn 10 walks, an improved ratio over last season's 71-to-39 showing for low Class A Charleston. His seven doubles ranked second in the Florida State League.

Murton batted .287/.366/.468 over the course of his first two professional seasons after being selected in the 19th round of the 2009 draft out of Georgia Tech.

"He has been locked in, and when he gets a good pitch to handle he is taking advantage of it," Newman said.

Younger brother of former major leaguer Matt Murton, who hit .349 for Japan's Hanshin Tigers last year and broke the country's single-season hits record, Luke was drafted three times before signing, twice by the Yankees. The Diamondbacks drafted him out of Georgia Tech as an eligible sophomore in 2007 (40th round), while the Yankees did the same in '08 (33rd round). He finally signed as a 19th-round senior in '09.

Though he has righthanded power, Murton isn't an all-or-nothing swinger. He began trusting his hands more and hitting to all fields as a college senior, and that approach has carried over to pro ball.

"He was a good player at Georgia Tech and has a little more experience than some kids taken in his draft," Newman said. "He had a really good spring training from day one and has made very good progress."

YANKEE DOODLES

• Even though it came in a loss to the Rangers on April 15, righthander Lance Pendleton will have a hard time forgetting his major league debut. A callup from Triple-A, he arrived at Yankee Stadium about an hour before game time and then provided three perfect innings of relief, striking out two. The Astros selected the 27-year-old Pendleton in the Rule 5 draft but returned him at the end of spring training.

• Righthander Dellin Betances made one mediocre start for Double-A Trenton—4 2⁄3 innings, five hits, four runs (one earned), one strikeout, two walks—and promptly went on the disabled list with a finger blister.