SALT LAKE CITY — Rehabbing Colorado Rockies catcher Tom Murphy already felt back to normal defensively entering the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes’ three-game road set against the Salt Lake Bees over the weekend. The main objective for Murphy going into the series? Getting more comfortable offensively.
“Getting my routine down, making sure that's on point,” Murphy told Purple Row when asked about the challenges of returning from a long layoff. “But I feel much better. With each game, you look for some sort of improvement. Thankfully, I've caught pretty well and for me that's most important right now.”
Murphy on Sunday went a long way toward meeting his offensive goal, capping a five-hit series by going 4-for-5 with a double. The 26-year-old backstop had the night off on Saturday, but in the series opener doubled and walked in five plate appearances. Murphy is now hitting .375 with a .667 slugging percentage in 26 plate appearances since joining the Topes at the beginning of the month.
So what’s the next step of his rehab assignment? Murphy isn’t exactly sure.
“They phase things out week by week starting from when I was in Arizona [extended spring training],” Murphy said. “We're coming up on a period where I'll be reevaluated and we'll go from there.”
The decision, once it has to be made, won’t be an easy one for the Rockies, who currently have Tony Wolters—the team’s current leader in on-base percentage—and Ryan Hanigan on the major league roster. Hanigan would be a logical choice to remove from the roster in favor of Murphy, but the Rockies can’t simply option him to the minors, instead having to expose him to waivers—something the team may be hesitant to do given how he’s worked with the pitching staff.
The Rockies have a little bit of time, though not much, to see how things play out. Murphy must be activated from the 10-day disabled list by Friday, June 23. At that point, Colorado must decide whether to add Murphy to the 25-man roster or option him to Triple-A.
If the latter ends up happening, it would be nothing new for Murphy, who is capable of playing at the next level (he’s slugging over .600 in 88 big league plate appearances) but was kept in Triple-A for the majority of last season despite hitting .327/.361/.647. It’s a conundrum to which an Albuquerque roster full of talented players can relate.
“That's the frustrating part of Triple-A,” Murphy said. “You have guys who are in limbo sometimes until September. The message kind of has to be that you're setting yourself up for future success with any success you have at this level.”
- Noel Cuevas struggled in the series finale (0-for-4 with a sac fly), but the 25-year-old outfielder—acquired in 2014 from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Juan Nicasio—looked like the Topes’ best hitter over the weekend. Cuevas followed a three-hit series opener by homering twice on Saturday. The first of his two solo shots traveled in excess of 450 feet. Cuevas, in 243 plate appearances, is hitting .335/.366/.526 with nine homers and has 11 stolen bases.
- Closer Matt Carasiti had an interesting outing in the middle game of the series. The 25-year-old right-hander loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth on a walk, a ground-ball single, and his own error on a bunt attempt. But Carasiti, who appeared in 19 games with the Rockies last season, struck out the next two batters before getting longtime big leaguer Michael Bourn to fly out to end the game.
- Jordan Patterson is starting to heat up. After starting the season in a horrendous funk, Patterson is hitting .324 (though with a startlingly low .306 OBP) in June. The bulk of that production came over the weekend, when Patterson had seven hits—including a homer—in 13 at-bats. Patterson, who was called up by the Rockies for one day last week when Gerardo Parra was injured while Alexi Amarista was on paternity leave, is hitting .236/.303/.448 with nine homers in 228 trips to the plate on the season.