Chris Kline’s AFL Road Trip: Q&A With Bill Murphy

PHOENIX’"Everyone knows lefthanders can tend to be a little off, and Diamondbacks lefty Bill Murphy is certainly no different.

Take for example this sampling of a conversation between Murphy and
Desert Dogs catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Phoenix pitching coach Scott
Emerson (Athletics) was looking for a bullpen catcher while most of the
team was taking batting practice Wednesday. Murphy, who had just
finished long-tossing using a catcher’™s mitt’"”Dude, we aren’™t shagging,
so there was no reason to bring the outfielder’™s glove.”‘"took the lead
in finding a backstop for his pitching coach.

“Salty, we need a catcher over here,” Murphy yelled over to Saltalamacchia.

“We’™re all about to hit in the next round though,” the 20-year-old
Braves catcher yelled back, referring to himself, Phil Avlas
(Diamondbacks) and Kurt Suzuki (Athletics).

“Oh, that’™s right . . . you guys are actually hitters, too. Forget it.”

Murphy’™s path over the last two years has been as scattered as his
sense of humor. A third-round pick of the Athletics in 2002 out of Cal
State Northridge, Murphy was dealt to the Marlins in the Mark Redman
trade a year later. He was dealt again with Hee Seop Choi and Brad
Penny to the Dodgers before finally landing with the Diamondbacks in
2004 as part of the Steve Finley trade.

We caught up with Murphy to talk about being dealt multiple times in
such a short span, having an off year while battling through a
hamstring injury and trying to stay mentally positive in his first year
as a Diamondback.

Baseball America: Let’™s start with the trade . . .

Bill Murphy: OK, which one?

BA: Let’™s start with the most recent one’"what was that experience like going through so much in such a short time?

BM: There were rumors there were trades that were going to go
down’"Stokesy (Jason Stokes), me, (Josh) Willingham, (Josh) Wilson,
there were a couple guys in our locker room that were rumored. It came
down to the last couple days and everyone thought it’™d be Stokesy’"even
our manager was like, ‘˜Murph, you ain’™t going nowhere.’™ It was weird
when I found out on ESPN that I just got traded because I’™d just gotten
traded four months prior to that. So it was weird at first and then I
was in a panic because I was going to the Dodgers. [Murphy grew up in
Anaheim.] Then after the trade deadline I wind up with the
Diamondbacks. It was a little hectic at first, but I get settled in
pretty easy. I know a lot of guys around different organizations, so I
get in pretty easy.

BA: So first year in the organization and you tear your hamstring
in spring training. What was that recovery like, being left behind when
camp broke for the first time in your career?

BM: I missed the first month and a half, which is never good. It was
rough. I was coming along really quick. I thought I was ready, but they
held me back an extra four weeks. It’™s a grind, especially for the
trainers. There’™s only three of them and they have 30 guys, so it’™s
tough to get some attention. You basically just have to go do it on
your own if you want to get back faster. Mentally, it was really hard
because you want to be out there doing your thing every day’"not

BA: You struggled this year for the first time in your career
(6-8, 5.65 in 121 innings at Triple-A Tucson). You had a couple good
stretches, but overall I would think you’™d consider the year a
disappointment. What happened to your command?

BM: You know, I had a really hard time throwing strikes really bad.
I had a point for about two months around the all-star break where I
pitched really well. I brought my ERA down to about 4.00. But just for
some reason, it hit the fan and it hit the fan hard. It was rough. It
was really beating me up. Day in and day out I was trying to figure out
what was going on, but there was really no answer. I just went out
there feeling like I was going to get my teeth kicked in every time. It
was just good to come out here to work on something else and kind of
forget about the season.

BA: But you’™ve had a lot of success in the past. Did you work on
your mechanics at all or try to change anything in your delivery?

BM: I think it was more mental than anything else. I walk some guys.
I usually always do that, but I walked way too many. And I mean, my
mechanics, I changed them a little bit, but not to where I should be
walking like 70-something in a season. Mentally, it really worked
against me. And I just took it in and let it beat me up’"bad. Every
start, I’™d have a good first inning, then the second inning I’™d give up
five. I just didn’™t have any idea what was going on. So it was weird,
it was weird, whatever . . . once the season was over, I forgot about
it. It’™s gone.

BA: But this isn’™t the best place to come to try to figure things
out against some of these hitters and kind of start over from scratch.
How are you dealing with that?

BM: It’™s messed up because these parks here are pretty much similar
to Tucson. So everybody’™s out here freaking out when all these balls
are going out of the park, but I’™m just like, ‘˜Whatever’"I played in
Triple-A, the PCL, I mean that league isn’™t fair for anybody.’™ So you
know it’™s tough for the pitchers because we probably have to toughest
job in the fall league. Hitters get tired, but they got two weeks off
to rest their bodies. We really can’™t, because if we completely stop
throwing, we get hurt. So you’™ve just got to learn to keep the ball
down out here and get ahead’"that’™s the most important thing. You know,
everyone talks about how this is a hitter’™s league and that’™s true. But
it’™s not like we’™re out here serving them up or anything. We’™re not
here to throw BP to these guys.