Tucson Padres: Team is playing 'Murphy Ball'

2013-05-30T00:00:00Z Tucson Padres: Team is playing 'Murphy Ball'Daniel Berk Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Wednesday, it was nearly 30 minutes of practicing bunt defense. One day earlier, it was working on tagging from third base on a fly ball to the outfield.

At other times, it's been extra ground balls, pitchers' fielding practice or perfecting hitting the cut-off man.

These are drills you see at a high school or even Little League practices.

But for the Tucson Padres, this is the new normal: fundamentals, fundamentals and more fundamentals.

It's the Pat Murphy way.

"Nobody wants to do that stuff," Padres outfielder Travis Buck said. "Nobody. But he makes it fun because it can get really old, really quick."

The first-year Padres manager wasted no time at the beginning of the season making sure the Padres were going to play "Murphy Ball."

With Tucson coming off back-to-back losing seasons, the manager wanted to instill winning baseball in the Kino Stadium clubhouse from Day 1. It didn't matter to him that victories aren't really the priority at the Triple-A level or that a lot of minor-league players are more concerned with their own statistics than they are with wins and losses.

The man with 947 Division I wins at Arizona State and Notre Dame and just 400 losses knows only one way of doing things.

"The best way to describe it is you have to be accountable at all times," outfielder Daniel Robertson said. "If you're a spiritual person, you know someone's always watching. When you're playing for Pat Murphy, you feel like everything you do, he's watching.

"It's like playing in front of a family member because you always want to be at your best in front of him."

Murphy's way is working.

After Tucson's 3-2 victory over Fresno on Wednesday night, the Padres are 28-25. One year ago at this point, the Padres were 20-33. In 2011, the team was 23-30. So although the record doesn't appear all that special, it's an improvement from the past two seasons.

"The Padres Triple-A team hasn't won in quite some time, and everyone just expected us not to be very good," said Buck, who played for Murphy at ASU. "I think most guys thought it was going to be, 'Get your numbers, work hard and then move on to the big leagues.' No, that's not going to happen with him. He wanted to make the Tucson Padres relevant.

"He doesn't care what our talent level is compared to other teams, he expects to win."

Of course, it's not all on Murphy.

Tucson's pitching staff is far improved compared with the past two seasons, and the lineup is filled with players who have previous Triple-A experience and major-league time under their belt.

But the culture at Kino Stadium is different, and the players think Murphy deserves the majority of the credit for that.

"Guys come to the park every day now expecting to win," Buck said. "Guys in this system who have played in this Triple-A before, it's a different feeling for them now.

"That's all on him."

Robertson, who went to Oregon State and played against Murphy while he was at ASU, agrees with Buck. The outfielder said Murphy has a unique way of getting players to want to work hard to be at their very best.

"I didn't like him at all when I was at Oregon State," Robertson said. "It didn't have to deal with him as a man; I just wanted to beat him. You could always see, watching his teams, there was a different mentality. He's great with words and can convince you of anything.

"He could sell ketchup to a woman in a white dress."

Ask Murphy and he's say there's still a lot of work to be done. He said Tucson's record should be better and eventually will be. Fifty-three games into the season and the veteran coach and manager feels he's just starting to have an imprint on the team.

"I don't care where this team has been in the past," Murphy said. "It's an ever-changing club. The biggest thing I'm pleased about, maybe the only thing, is that we haven't been out of too many games. I think it's only been two out of 52 games where we've come up for the last time and haven't had a chance to win. I'm proud of that."

Inside pitch

• Infielder Logan Forsythe joined Tucson on an MLB rehab assignment Wednesday. The 26-year-old, with 153 games of big-league experience, injured his foot in spring training. Wednesday marked his first game action of 2013. He was 0 for 2 with an error.

• Center fielder Cameron Maybin remains with Tucson on a rehab assignment recovering from a wrist injury. He didn't play Wednesday but is expected to be in the lineup tonight.

• Catcher John Baker is expected to join the Padres today after being demoted from San Diego earlier this week. Baker was sent down because Yasmani Grandal's suspension ended Tuesday.

Today

• What: Fresno at Tucson Padres

• Where: Kino Stadium

• When: 7:05 p.m.

• Radio: 1290-AM

¡Tus Padres!

• Highlight: Jonathan Galvez hit a walk-off home run in the ninth to give the Padres (28-25) the win Wednesday night at Kino Stadium. It was Galvez's only hit of the game and marked the second straight day the 22-year-old homered. The Padres led 2-1 heading to the top of the ninth, but Fresno tied the game on a solo homer from Johnny Monell off Daniel Stange. Galvez got Stange off the hook with his homer.

• Big number: 9: Starting pitcher Sean O'Sullivan struck out nine batters in 6 1/3 innings and was in line for the win before Stange gave up the home run. O'Sullivan gave up just one run on five hits.

• Tonight's starters: Tucson RHP Wilfredo Boscan (1-2, 4.50 ERA) vs. RHP Mitch Lively (2-1, 7.62 ERA)

Daniel Berk

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