‘Murph’ powering out at San Diego State
The window of opportunity is as open as it’s going to get for J.R. Murphy. And he’s well aware of it.
“This is the last hurrah,” Murphy conceded, talking baseball and his future Monday night before flying back to San Diego State, where he’ll prepare for his senior year on the mound.
While Murphy has developed into an accomplished vet of the diamond at age 21, the 2004 Truckee High grad never has faced a season with greater implications.
This is it, his final chance to catch the eyes of professional scouts while pitching in a college uniform. If he wants to play ball for a living, his time to shine is now.
Luckily for him, “Murph,” as his Truckee teammates once called him, said he feels like a million bucks ” this just 13 months after undergoing surgery on his pitching elbow.
“It’s good, back to normal,” he said of his right elbow, which was operated on last December to remove a bone spur and repair ligament impingement and loose scar tissue. “I’m very happy about it.”
In addition to his full recovery, Murphy is also happy about his performance pitching this past summer for the Corvallis (Ore.) Knights in the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League, and during fall ball at San Diego State.
Playing for the Knights, he settled into his familiar role as a starter after being relegated to the Aztecs’ bullpen while coming back from surgery.
Murphy thrived, posting a 4-1 record and a 1.35 ERA while striking out 51 and walking 17 in 10 starts and 60 innings of work. He allowed 37 hits and held opposing batters to a .181 average.
“It was good for my confidence,” he said, “especially coming off a season when I was injured and didn’t play much.”
Murphy rode that momentum into the fall, when he was granted two five-inning outings per week during a season of intrasquad scrimmages. He threw well, and as a result feels strongly that the effort earned him a spot in the starting rotation.
“I had a good enough fall to where I’m almost positive I locked up a starting job,” he said.
With the recent addition of a curveball to his repertoire, Murphy has reason to be excited. No longer is he a three-pitch hurler, now boasting a fastball, change, curve and slider ” still his bread-and-butter pitch.
“It was just something I was messing with one day. I threw (the curve) in the bullpen, then took it into an intrasquad game and had success with it ” made some guys miss,” Murphy said, adding that the break on his curve is 12-to-6, or straight down.
Entering his final collegiate hurrah, Murphy hopes to parlay his fall success into the regular season.
His future hinges on the outcome.
Murphy, whose jersey number is retired in the outfield of the Truckee High baseball field, played three years of varsity ball for the Wolverines.
He earned first-team All-State honors as a pitcher his junior and a senior years and became the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association (NIAA) single-season strikeout record holder with 139.
Recruited by New Mexico, Utah, UNLV, Hawaii, Nevada, San Jose State and Arizona State, Murphy chose Yavapai College in Arizona, where he pitched for two years.
In 49 1/3 innings in seven starts during his freshman year at Yavapai, Murphy compiled a 6-0 record with one save and two complete games. His earned run average, at 1.83, ranked 12th in the nation. Murphy allowed 32 hits and 10 earned runs while striking out 44 and walking 18. Opposing batters only managed a .186 average against him.
Murphy was a preseason All-American in 2006 and earned honorable mention All-America accolades at the end of the season. He finished the year with a 10-1 record with one save and a 1.71 earned run average. He also struck out 104 batters while walking just 15 in 94.1 innings.
To cap Murphy’s experience at Yavapai, the Roughriders played their way into the championship game of the NJCAA World Series, where they lost 7-6 to Walters State College (Tenn.).
Murphy was also selected by the Texas Rangers in the 38th round of the 2005 Major League Baseball draft. But he chose to stay in school. So far this year he has received questionnaires from about 10 major-league organizations.
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