SOMETIMES A MAN has to take one step backward to take two steps forward. Just ask Jim Murphy. Murphy, demoted in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system after a disappointing 2010 season, was named the starting first baseman for the Northern Division in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game on Tuesday night in Salisbury, Md.
The former Washington State slugger is tied for the league lead with 17 home runs and 53 runs batted in. He’s batting .286 for Class A Lakewood, N.J.
Murphy, Lakewood’s all-time leader in homers and RBIs, starred for the BlueClaws two years ago before moving up to Clearwater, Fla., in the high Class A Florida State League last season. He just .239 with six home runs and 43 RBIs.
Fourteen other Cougars are known to be under contract to professional baseball teams. All are in the minors, which threatens WSU’s 63-year streak of having at least one former player in the majors. That streak ranks fifth all-time; USC leads at 72.
Former WSU basketball star Mark Hendrickson, who spent all or part of the previous nine seasons in the majors, is making a strong bid to return to the big time.
The 37-year-old Hendrickson has thrown 12 1/3 innings of shutout relief in his last five appearances, and he’s picked up wins the last two times out. He’s 2-3 with a 2.81 earned run average in 16 games with the Norfolk (Va.) Tides, the Class AAA International League farm club of the Baltimore Orioles.
Eddie Bonine, the other Cougar who played in the majors last year, is currently on the disabled list in the International League with an elbow injury. The Philadelphia farmhand is 3-4 with a 5.16 ERA in 11 games (10 starts) at Lehigh Valley in Allentown, Pa.
Three players off the 2011 Cougars are set to make their pro debuts this week at the Rookie-class level. June draft picks Adam Conley, Derek Jones and Taylor Ard remain unsigned.
Third baseman Matt Argyropoulos was shipped to Casper, Wyo., in the Pioneer League by the Colorado Rockies.
Toronto assigned shortstop-second baseman Cody Bartlett to Bluefield, W.Va., in the Appalachian League.
Pitcher Paris Shewey, originally headed to the Rookie-class Gulf Coast League, has joined the Greeneville (Tenn.) Astros, Houston’s farm club in the Appalachian League.
Paul Gran, a third baseman in the Florida farm system, is batting .228 with one homer and 16 RBIs in 45 games with the Jacksonville (Fla.) Suns of the AA Southern League.
Another Southern League player, pitcher Travis Webb, is 1-5 with a 5.60 ERA in 16 games (five starts) with the Carolina Mudcats in Zebulon, N.C. Carolina is a Cincinnati Reds affiliate.
Right fielder Jared Prince, a Texas Rangers farmhand, has recovered from a slow start to post .265-3-30 numbers in 64 games with Class A Myrtle Beach, S.C., in the Carolina League.
Former Cougars shortstop Shea Vucinich is starting at third base for the Class A Brevard County Manatees in Viera, Fla. He’s hitting .219-5-20 in 58 games in the Florida State League. The Manatees are a farm club of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Vucinich turned pro with Helena, Mont., in the Pioneer League last year. Milwaukee assigned Seth Harvey to Helena this season after Harvey made his pro debut in the Rookie-class Arizona League last year.
Alex Burg has played in just eight games with the San Jose (Calif.) Giants, but his stats line reads .462-2-6 in the Class A California League. Burg has seen more playing time lately after the promotion of another catcher by the parent San Francisco Giants.
Jesse Hoorelbeke, a veteran first baseman in the independent minor leagues, has a .246-5-24 line in 30 games with Fargo (N.D.)-Moorhead (Minn.) in the independent American Association.
Philadelphia farmhand Matt Way (back) and Arizona farmhand Michael Weber (knee) have not played this season due to injuries.
Pitcher Jayson Miller was released over the winter by the independent Jersey Jackals in Little Falls, N.J. The Cleveland Indians released pitcher Jeremy Johnson in spring training.