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Run by The Trentonian's Nick Peruffo, this blog will provide daily multimedia coverage of the Trenton Thunder.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Catcher Day Part 2: J.R. Murphy

For no reason at all, I have decided to have a little fun today on the blog. Thus, today is catcher day. I will post as many things as I have available about the catchers up and down the Yankees system.

Why catcher? First, it's one of the team's positions of strength. From Montero to Romine to Murphy to Sanchez to Liccien to Bird, the Yankees are bursting with backstops. Second, and more selfishly, I happen to have a good deal of catcher-related media lying around, including video clips and unpublished interviews.

We started the day with some Gary Sanchez material, and now we'll move to his first-half teammate, J.R. Murphy.

In a way, Murphy and Sanchez found their way to the RiverDogs in similar fashion. Both spent their formative years learning the game and honing their craft, Sanchez on ballfields in the Dominican Republic and Murphy at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Each was identified by the Yankees as a high-level talent, especially at the plate, and summarily handed a seven-figure bonus to join the fold.

Unfortunately for both players, there was another parallel this season: Each had his year cut short by injury.

Before it was over, Murphy earned a promotion to High-A Tampa, and compiled a .287/.325/.434 line with 29 doubles, seven homers and 46 RBIs. I imagine he'll start the year back at Tampa and earn a midseason promotion to Trenton if everything goes accordingly.

Here's an unpublished interview I did with Murphy this April, as well as a couple of videos from his series against the BlueClaws.

Q: What’s it like knowing that Brian Cashman took time out of his schedule to come watch you guys play for five games?
A: Obviously you don't want to put even more pressure on yourself thinking about who is watching, but I just think it's cool that he is around. Not just at the game but walking around the clubhouse. Very cool and something you don't get to see every day.
Q: He’d said that it was important to let you guys know that there was a connection between the front office and the minor leagues.
A: That's great to know. A lot of people think, ‘Oh, we’re in Low-A, guys up there don’t really know who we are.’ It’s really cool that he’s around here watching the games, taking the time to come watch us and stuff, so it’s cool. There are times when you think they don't even know who we are down here.''
Q: You were with Charleston last year – are you surprised to be back to start the season?
A: "(Being back) is a good opportunity. I wasn't surprised. They've got me working on different positions now, too. Surprised? No. I’m just looking forward to trying other positions and getting better at them.
Q: Which position, outside of catcher, do you believe is your strong point right now?
A: Probably third. I haven’t played any outfield – I did in spring training. Definitely third base is the strongest because of taken more reps there than in the outfield.
Q: Eventually this logjam at catcher will probably dissipate, but how do you deal with it while it exists?
A: You just have to worry about yourself and go about your business day to day. Playing other positions is only going to help me. It's all about making it to the big leagues. What position I play, that's up to them. I love catching, but if playing third base or the outfield is going to help me move up then I am all for it.
Q: You and Sanchez are together for now. How do you help each other grow?
A: Sanchez and I work a lot together, whether it's just watching each other while we are catching, or working off the field with Victor, we feed off each other and are learning stuff from each other.
Q: What specifically have you learned from Sanchez?
A: He’s come a long way from last year. Seeing his progress with footwork, receiving and the transfer of his throws to second base is what I learned most.
Q: On the other side of the coin, what do you think he’s gotten from you?
From my end I think he sees my work ethic and how I go about my business. Working with Victor every day you have to constantly push yourself and get better. I think that’s what he’s learned.
Q: They obviously have a lot invested in a handful of players here financially. Mark Newman said a lot of the organization’s better position prospects are here. Do you see you guys pushing each other?
A: I think we do. We have a good mix of Latin guys and American guys. As far as that goes, I think we are just starting to know how good we can be when play together as a team. When everything meshes with us, hits are contagious with this team. When we’re on defense, it’s a plus.
Q: The focus at the upper levels seems to be more individualized, rather than a team-first attitude at the lower levels. Do you agree?
A: Yes and no. I think the American guys work a lot together more than the Latin guys do. As a whole, as a team, we work real well together. It’s not very individual down here at all, I don’t think.

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