Missing games isn’t something Matt Murton is used to doing. The 30-year-old outfielder has proven to be remarkably durable over the course of his career, so it was odd to not see him on the field for the first three games of the Hanshin Tigers’ season because of a strained hamstring.
“Of course you want to be out there playing, but you have to try to look at the big picture,” Murton said Thursday before the Tigers’ game against the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. “So as much as I wanted to be out there playing, I was trying to look at it for 144 games. I would rather miss a couple than come back too soon and have something happen where I miss 30 or something like that.”
Murton injured the hamstring during a spring game against the Chiba Lotte Marines March 17. Murton worked with the team’s training staff, and worked out and played with the farm team before re-joining the ichi-gun squad for the series against Yakult.
It’s likely he could’ve played through it, but being that the injury occurred at the beginning of the season, the Tigers opted to play it safe.
“They just were real diligent with me and they worked hard on a daily basis,” Murton said of the Hanshin trainers. “We had kind of set goals, just took it one day at a time and we worked really hard. With their help I was able to get back a little bit sooner than I expected.”
Murton made his delayed debut Wednesday in the Tigers’ 5-5 tie against the Swallows at Jingu Stadium, finishing 2-for-4 and playing right field. On Thursday, he went through practice normally, saying he didn’t feel any adverse effects from the injury.
“I don’t think it’s effecting me at all,” Murton said. “I think the biggest thing is maybe a little bit, there in the back of my mind, I know it’s there. I think the biggest thing is to do the work that we’ve been doing. I think the issue at this point now is re-injuring it. But I think we’re fine. Just gotta be smart.”
Every player deals with bumps and bruises, even this early in the season, but missing games is a rarity for Murton. Other than a strained oblique that cost him three days in 2009 while playing for the Colorado Rockies’ Triple-A affiliate in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Murton has been able to remain relatively healthy.
“To be honest, I’ve been really fortunate,” he said. “God’s been good. I may have missed seven or eight total games in my career because of injury.
“This has really been, in terms of an in-season problem, probably the most major thing I’ve had.”