Bradenton's J.R. Murphy gets hit in debut for New York Yankees

IMG product pinch-hits for Cano, gets infield knock at Yankee Stadium

jlembo@bradenton.comSeptember 5, 2013 

As they do every night, Carolina and Mark Murphy logged on to on Saturday to catch a glimpse of their son, J.R., a catcher in the New York Yankees organization.

J.R. wasn't in the lineup.

A late scratch, according to his agent.

Was it an injury? An illness? A last-second managerial hunch?

None of the above. Instead, J.R. Murphy, a Bradenton native and an alum of the IMG Academy, had some packing to do. He was on his way to the Bronx. The Yankees had added him to the 40-man roster.

Mark and Carolina quickly packed their bags and booked a flight, and by Sunday afternoon, were sitting in Yankee Stadium waiting to see their son make his big-league debut, which came Monday.

"It's a dream come true for him, so it's a dream come true for us," Carolina said from New York, where she and about eight of J.R.'s relatives will stay throughout the remainder of the Yankees' homestand, which ends Sunday.

"We're still trying to soak everything in and realize it's a reality."

Throughout the afternoon Monday, the Murphys caught glimpses of J.R. poking his head out of the dugout or leaning over the railing. Then came the most pleasant of surprises: J.R. was sent up to pitch-hit for Robinson Cano, the Yankees' All-Star second baseman.

And J.R. played along with the script, recording a hit in his first career at-bat.

"I don't know how to describe it -- exhilarating, nerve-wracking," Carolina said. "I don't know what words to use."

After the Yankees wrapped a 9-1 win over the Chicago White Sox, the Murphys went down to the field and took some pictures with their son,

who was wearing uniform No. 66. Then they bumped into Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who presented the family with the game's lineup card.

"We had the opportunity to thank him, and he told us that he was excited to have J.R. up here," Carolina said, "and that he earned it. Then he looked at J.R. and said, 'You're a major-leaguer now, so dinner is on you.'"

Murphy was a second-round pick of the Yankees in 2009 and hit .266 in 400 minor-league at-bats. He was batting .269 this year with New York's Double-A and Triple-A affiliates with 12 home runs and 46 RBIs when the Yankees decided to promote him.

Most impressive was his improvement behind the plate. Murphy threw out 37 percent of base runners trying to steal this season and 30 percent during his career.

Now he finds himself on a Yankees team embroiled in the postseason race. They entered Wednesday's game 2½ games behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the American League's second wild-card spot.

"He has impressed us with the maturity," Carolina said. "He just seems to understand that it's a journey, and he is taking everything one day at a time and trusting that God has a plan for him."

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