Tucson Padres: Former rivals Decker, Murphy a good fit

2013-06-18T00:00:00Z Tucson Padres: Former rivals Decker, Murphy a good fitDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 18, 2013 12:00 am  • 

For seven days earlier this month, Tucson Padres manager Pat Murphy's undershirt was a lighter shade of blue than normal.

Thanks to Cody Decker's UCLA Bruins going deeper in the NCAA baseball tournament than Murphy's former team, Arizona State, the skipper was forced to wear a UCLA shirt every day for a week at Kino Stadium.

"It was absolutely beautiful," said Decker, a first baseman and catcher for Tucson. "I sent the pictures and a video back to all of the coaches at UCLA and told them to look at 'Murph the Bruin.'

"It was so great."

Added Murphy: "I tried not to think about it. I never thought I'd be wearing that shirt, but I'm glad it made some people smile."

There may not be a more appropriate budding relationship/friendly rivalry in the Tucson Padres clubhouse than the Decker-Murphy one.

Neither has ever met a conversation he didn't want to contribute to and both tend to speak their mind above a normal decibel level.

Calling the manager and player characters wouldn't be a stretch by any means.

"I love Deck," Murphy said before Tucson's 5-1 win over visiting Reno on Monday night.

"I love busting his chops whenever I can."

Case in point: The two recently sat in Murphy's office and went through all four years of the UCLA-Arizona State series while Decker was a Bruin.

The final tally? Murphy's Sun Devils got the best of Decker's Bruins nine games to three and ASU held Decker to 8 for 32 over the 12 games.

That would lead you to believe Murphy won the rivalry.

"Of course, I did," a laughing Murphy said.

But Decker claims that's not the full story.

Yes, the Bruins won just three of 12 games and he did hit .250 for his career against Murphy, but homered off ASU's top two pitchers at that time, Mike Leake and Josh Spence, and hit a walk-off double against the Sun Devils as a freshman.

"I know he claims he got the best of it, but he absolutely did not," a playful Decker said.

"I hit two home runs off the best pitchers he ever had and the one off Spence still hasn't landed. They always beat us, that I cannot make a single argument against.

"But if you ask him which UCLA hitter he feared the most and he says anybody but me, Pat Murphy is a liar."

That's the fun side of the relationship.

The business side is benefiting both.

In Decker, Murphy has a middle-of-the-order power bat.

He has eight home runs, tied for most on the team with Dean Anna, and, is tied for second on the team with 14 doubles.

Decker is also flexible in the field, able to play first base and both corner outfield spots and right now is the No. 2 catcher behind Rene Rivera.

"He's got something special with that bat," Murphy said. "He's tied for the team lead in homers and has almost 100 less at-bats than Dean.

"He's a very hard worker and he cares about every pitch."

In Murphy, Decker has a manager who's familiar with his game and is eager to help him realize his dream and get to the major leagues.

Murphy has specifically helped Decker with the transition to catcher.

The two work together on the field hours before each home game.

When the Padres (37-34) designated catcher John Baker for assignment last week, Murphy told the organization he didn't need another catcher because Decker was good enough to be the backup even though he's playing the position as a professional for the first time this season.

"In all seriousness, he's one of the best coaches I've ever played for," Decker said. "He's helped me a lot and I'm really excited about the second half of the season and for it to continue."

¡Tus Padres!

Tucson 5, Reno 1

• Highlight: Brandon Allen went 2 for 3 with three RBIs and the Padres (37-34) earned a series split against the Aces. Allen was one of three batters to have a two-hit night for the Padres, joining Jaff Decker and Rene Rivera. Starting pitcher Anthony Bass earned his first win of the season for Tucson, pitching five innings and giving up one run on five hits and striking out four.

• Big number: 25: Tucson improved to 25-8 this season when scoring first. The Padres scored three times in the bottom of the first.

• Tonight's starters: RHP Burch Smith (2-1, 2.25 ERA) vs. TBA.

Up next

• Who: Reno at Tucson

• When: 7:05 p.m.

• Radio: 1290-AM

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk. Daniel Berk

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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