Murphy unlikely to play until postseason

Slugger could get pinch-hit opportunity; Harper resting thumb

Murphy unlikely to play until postseason

WASHINGTON -- Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy is unlikely to play again during the regular season, aside from maybe a pinch-hit opportunity, manager Dusty Baker said Thursday.

Murphy has missed almost two weeks with strained buttocks, but Baker said he's "getting better, big-time."

"We're shooting for him to be ready on the seventh," Baker said, referring to Game 1 of the NLDS. "He might get a pinch-hit, but I don't want to take him backwards."

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Baker said the team might hold an intrasquad game between the end of the regular season and the start of the postseason to get Murphy some at-bats against live pitching. The second baseman, who ranks second in the NL with a .347 average, has been hitting in the cage while he waits for his injury to fully heal.

Baker pointed out that given Murphy's short swing, he shouldn't have too much trouble finding his rhythm.

"Him, Joey Votto, different hitters like that that have a very compact, kind of simple swing, it's a lot different than, like, Matt Williams, who I had, or [Ryan Zimmerman] or somebody that has a lot of moving parts that they have to get time together," Baker said.

Worth noting
Bryce Harper, who injured his left thumb sliding into third base Sunday, was out of the lineup again Thursday. Baker said the decision to sit the outfielder an extra day came down to a combination of factors, including the wet weather and the fact that the Dodgers lost Wednesday, giving the Nationals some cushion in the race for home-field advantage in the first round.

Baker also simply wants to give Harper's thumb an extra day or two to heal.

"I'm still a little afraid," Baker said. "If he hits the ball solid, it's not going to hurt. But if he gets rattled or hits one on the end or gets jammed on one, it's going to send electric shocks through his body."

Stephen Strasburg, sidelined with a flexor mass strain, has begun to throw, but he is still doubtful for the NLDS.

"We're hoping that we get him back, but we're planning not have him back, so we're pleasantly surprised, not disappointed," Baker said.

Alex Putterman is a reporter for based in Washington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.