Murphy ready for extended stint in the Bronx

Catcher hopes 'John Ryan' picks up where 'J.R.' left off in 2013
04/16/2014 2:48 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Yankees catcher John Ryan Murphy participates in a drill during spring training.(AP)
Roughly eight months ago, John Ryan Murphy was a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRider, about to finish up a strong season that saw him hit .269 with 12 home runs in 108 games between Double-A and Triple-A.

On September 1, he got the call-up to the majors for the first time, and he continued to impress; he was just 4-for-26 at the plate in 17 games, but Murphy showed a poise beyond his years behind the plate, and even got to be the man who caught Mariano Rivera's final pitches.

Murphy began the 2014 season back in Triple-A but didn't stay long, as when Francisco Cervelli was placed on the 60-day disabled list Tuesday, it was the former second-round pick, and not Austin Romine, who was summoned to join Brian McCann behind the plate for at least the next two months.

Some may say that playing every day, or at least in a 50-50 time share with Romine, may be better for Murphy's development, but the major-league experience is one he relishes more.

"I'm gonna be here for a while, and I'm more than willing to try to help the team as much as I can, wherever and whenever I can," Murphy said Wednesday, shortly after beginning his first true game day back in the Bronx.

Romine may have gained more major-league experience while filling in for Cervelli for the bulk of 2013, but general manager Brian Cashman said earlier in the week that Murphy has "made himself a priority" in the organization over the last year, and that's a testament to the backstop's non-stop hard work.

"I think I've found a little bit more of a comfort level, in terms of calling a game and working with my pitchers and knowing their personalities. I think that's what made the most improvement," Murphy said about that. "It gives me a lot more confidence (hearing Cashman's words); it's good to hear that from people, and I look forward to having fun and helping the team any way I can."

His organizational position isn't the only thing that's changed for Murphy this year, though; when he comes up to bat, it will be John Ryan Murphy, and not JR, who is announced. He's not the only John Murphy in the organization - the other plays shortstop for Class-A Charleston and has the middle name of Michael - but if truth be told, the former JR would much rather have used his full name all along.

"Growing up I was always John Ryan, so honestly, JR was the change. This offseason, my parents were kind of behind going back to what it's always been, so I said something before spring training started and it's starting to stick," he said. "I think baseball kind of evolved it into JR, but, to people who have known me forever, family and close friends, it's always been John Ryan, so that's more normal for me."

One thing he won't have to work on, at least, is familiarity with the Yankees' pitching staff. Murphy worked with 10 of the 12 active pitchers (plus David Robertson) in either Triple-A or the Bronx last season, and the couple of guys he doesn't know well he at least got to work with a little bit this spring.

But if he needs any help at all, Murphy knows exactly where to turn.

"I know most of the staff; I'm sure there's a few I didn't catch in game (last year or this spring), but between bullpens and simulated games and all that, I think I've caught everybody," he said. "But, the guys that I don't know so well, I'm sure Mac (Brian McCann) will help me. He's real easy to talk to and helps me out with whatever I need."

For John Ryan Murphy, the fruition of that last quote right there might just be the best thing he'll take from this stint in the majors.

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