June 20, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
A.J. Murray doesn’t have much to say about his Cape Cod League experience during the summer of 2013.
Of course, having signed a temporary contract, he was only there about three weeks.
That’s barely enough time figure out the lay of the land of the eastern-most portion of Massachusetts, never mind figure out what he needed to improve at the plate.
This summer, he planned to give the Cape a full summer.
So far, he’s glad he did.
“I’m very happy to be here,” said the junior from Westfield, N.J. “Chatham’s a beautiful place. We’ve had a little bit of time to explore downtown and I went to the beach the other day, which is nice. The first week I was just getting settled in, I had a few practices. But ever since the games started it’s been a lot of fun. The team’s great, the coaches are great. I’m having a blast up here so far.”
Wednesday night he delivered his first blast of the year, a first-inning, two-run shot over the fence in right field that gave his Chatham Anglers a 2-0 lead in a 4-1 win over the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. It was Chatham’s second straight win, during which they’ve scored 10 runs, after snapping a four-game losing streak, during which they scored four and had been shutout twice.
“It was a great feeling and it came at a good time,” he said. “It’s a little energy boost when you’re able to get two runs in the first inning. So that was great for our team.”
It was nice for Murray, too, as he’d been held hitless in consecutive games for the first time during the summer and had only one extra-base hit in his first six games. That’s out of character for Murray, who tied for the lead on the Yellow Jackets with four homers, and was second on the team with 16 doubles and a .426 slugging percentage.
Interestingly, he hit the round-tripper off University of Illinois junior lefty Kevin Duchene, against whom Murray went 2-for-3 during the 2013 Nashville Regional.
“I remember how he pitched me. I know he threw a lot of fastballs in. He’s kind of a hard-in, soft-away kind of guy to righties,” he said. “He actually got ahead of me on a fastball inside on the first pitch and then I was looking for something away, either a change-up or a slider and he hung a slider up in the zone.
“Luckily there was a pretty good jet stream going out to right field yesterday, so it worked out,” he added. “But it definitely helped to have seen him the year before and it was a good match-up at the time. It definitely helps knowing how he approaches hitters.”
Improving his approach against all pitchers and putting more balls in play is priority No. 1 for Murray this summer.
So far, he’s done just that, as through seven games and 23 at-bats he’s struck out only one time.
“I’m very happy so far with only striking out once. I’m knocking on wood as I say it,” he said, with a laugh. “I’ve been working on my approach up here. I’ve been progressing in my two-strike approach. I’ve been aggressive early in the count and I don’t think I’ve gotten into many two-strike counts here, maybe three or four. I’ve just been really aggressive early in the count and trying to get a fastball early that I can drive. It’s been working out so far.
“I feel like I’ve adjusted well to the league and to the wood bats,” he added. “There are some aspects I need to improve on but it’s great to get a change of scenery, to play against some of the best talent in the country. So far I’d say I’ve been doing pretty well adjusting to it.”
Thursday night, Murray will need to adjust to seeing Yellow Jackets teammate Matt Gonzalez in the opposing dugout, when the Anglers take on the Harwich Mariners. It promises to be the latest fun twist in what is turning out to be a fun summer.
“It’ll be like playing an intrasquad game back at home,” he said. “Matt and I go to the same gym here. He’s only about five minutes away from where I live. We’ve been joking about it back and forth about how we’re going to do. So it will be fun. It’ll be a lot of fun to see him play and play against him.
“Summer baseball’s a lot of fun,” he continued. “It’s a great time to just play baseball, work on things you need to and just mainly have fun.”
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