Donnie Murphy just hoping to stick with Cubs

Donnie Murphy just hoping to stick with Cubs
August 27, 2013, 7:45 pm
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Tony Andracki

For all the talk of the Cubs' lack of a proven core player at third base, it has actually been one of the most productive positions for the team this season.

And that's without any contributions from the organization's top third-base prospects.

2013 No. 2 pick Kris Bryant is only in High-A, Javier Baez has yet to move to third base (as many predict he will), Mike Olt is suffering through a miserable season in which he's hitting just .199, Josh Vitters has only gotten on the field for 28 games in Triple-A Iowa and Jeimer Candelario is still only 19 years old.

[RELATED: Cubs pushing top prospects to Arizona Fall League]

But veteran journeymen Donnie Murphy, Cody Ransom and Luis Valbuena have combined for 24 homers from the third base position, second only to Pedro Alvarez (31 HR) and the Pirates in the National League.

Murphy has been getting the lion's share of playing time at the hot corner lately and it's not hard to see why. The 30-year-old infielder hit eight homers in his first 16 games with the Cubs, the highest total in franchise history since at least 1921.

"I guess you enjoy it while it lasts," Murphy said. "I'm just taking it in and I've been getting some good pitches and putting good swings on them. Luckily, they've been going over."

"It's one of the hottest streaks that comes around in baseball," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said in San Diego last weekend. "It's one of those things that only comes around every once in a while, so you ride it out. Hopefully it continues."

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This isn't the first time Murphy's had a hot streak like this. With the Miami Marlins' Triple-A team in New Orleans last year, the Lakewood, Calif., native clubbed 13 homers in 30 games.

Murphy hadn't homered in four straight games entering play Tuesday, but is still slugging .662 on the season and is getting on base at a .361 clip, making it easy for Sveum to pencil his name in the lineup each night.

"I'm always [appreciative anytime I'm up in the major leagues]," Murphy said. "But, you know, I'm more appreciative of being able to come out here and play everyday and get consistent at-bats.

"That's what helps you out. It's tough sometimes when you come off the bench and only play like once or twice every seven-to-10 days. It's nice to get everyday at-bats."

Murphy has played with the Royals, Athletics, Orioles, Marlins and now the Cubs since he was drafted in the fifth round in 2002, appearing in 264 big-league games and accumulating more than 3,100 minor-league plate appearances over that time.

[RELATED: Cubs have no answers for Greinke, Dodgers]

"Oh yeah, [it's tough to keep your head right] going from organization to organization, moving up and down from Triple-A to the big leagues," Murphy said. "You look at the game and not everybody gets to do this.

"It's just a part of the game and you have to travel so much sometimes. But I'm happy I'm getting a chance here."

It wasn't always a lack of opportunity for Murphy. He's battled injuries throughout his career and has never played more than 52 games in the big leagues. This is also the first year he's played at least 100 games since he was a 21-year-old second baseman with the Royals' High-A team in 2004.

"It was unfortunate to have all those injuries," Sveum said. "In his short time in the big leagues, he was on the DL six times. Injuries don't help anything.

"Getting the opportunity on an everyday basis helps. When you have a kid with bat speed who can hit the ball over the fence in right-center field right-handed, you always sit back and wonder what happens if the guy gets 650 plate appearances playing every day.

"Those things are going to happen if you stay healthy because they have the ability to do it. A lot of times, they just need the opportunity."

[MORE: Hitting third is an 'ego thing' for Rizzo]

Murphy is hoping to springboard the opportunity into a bigger role or simply an MLB roster spot next season. He won't turn 31 until spring training and has experience all over the infield.

But he's not consumed with worrying about 2014 just yet.

"I don't even try to think about [next year]," Murphy said. "If you look that far ahead, sometimes you can get caught up in that and not focus on what you have to do at the time at hand.

"But if it is [a springboard], if [the Cubs are] looking at it that way and I've proved these last couple months that I can handle it and they're confident in that, that's just more of a positive note."