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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Daniel Murphy isn’t sure whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day as he continues to recover from offseason knee surgery.

“I’m generally optimistic that when they put me in the lineup, I won’t come out,” Murphy said Tuesday when asked about his chances of being ready for the Washington Nationals‘ season opener against the Cincinnati Reds on March 29.

“You see these guys bouncing around and playing, you want to participate and be playing with your teammates,” said Murphy, who was the only position player not to participate in team drills Tuesday, one day before the Nats’ first official full-squad workout. “But I think it’s the understanding of when they loose me, when the training staff lets me go and it’s time to play, you only want to come off the DL once. I don’t want to start playing games and then have to stop. So that’s kind of the mindset we’re taking right now.”

New manager Dave Martinez echoed the sentiments of his veteran second baseman.

“I’m more concerned about rushing him and him not being fully ready,” Martinez said. “When we get him back, we don’t want him to go back on the DL, we want to get him back for the whole season.”

Murphy had debridement and microfracture surgery on his right knee in mid-October, shortly after Washington fell to the Chicago Cubs in the National League Division Series. More than four months later, he has regained full range of motion and is running at 60 percent weight-bearing on a treadmill, though he hasn’t yet been cleared to take swings.

“I’m excited about the progress,” said the 32-year old veteran, whose .322 average last season ranked second in the National League. “I think the work has been good. Currently right now, a lot of strengthening in the weight room, starting to get introduced to some baseball activities. Right now, it’s mostly just laying on the strength as much as we can to get my body and my leg ready.”

If Murphy isn’t ready by Opening Day, Washington has multiple options. Among them are 25-year-old infielder Wilmer Difo, who hit .271 in 124 games last season and played stellar defense while filling in for injured shortstop Trea Turner. Veteran utility man Howie Kendrick, who re-signed with the Nationals this offseason (two years, $7 million), also has extensive experience at second base.

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Mookie Betts goes ‘back to my roots’ at second base, homers in Los Angeles Dodgers’ victory

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PHOENIX — Mookie Betts looked right back at home playing his original position on Sunday.

Betts hit a homer in his first game back from the injured list and made a stellar defensive play at second base to help the Los Angeles Dodgers ease past the Arizona Diamondbacks 13-0 to win two of three in the series.

“It was a lot of fun going back to my roots,” said Betts, who usually plays in the outfield. “It was good easing myself back into play.”

With a sore left hip, manager Dave Roberts and Betts thought it wise to let him play second — the position he played when he came up with Boston in 2014 — to reduce the strain.

His hip didn’t seem to be a problem. In the first inning, he took a hit away from Arizona’s Drew Ellis. Playing on the shortstop side of the bag in the shift, Betts went back for a popup like a wide receiver hauling in a pass over his shoulder.

“That catch changed the landscape of the game,” Roberts said.

The Dodgers then scored five runs in the second, chasing Caleb Smith after Albert Pujols‘ bases-clearing double capped the scoring in the inning.

Betts later turned a double play when playing behind second, running to the base and firing to first to complete it. He’s likely to return to right field on Tuesday when the Dodgers host their 2017 World Series nemesis, the Houston Astros.

All told, Betts, who played one game at second last season for the Dodgers, had two putouts and three assists in the victory.

Trea Turner, acquired from Washington last week, is expected to play second and Max Scherzer is scheduled to start Wednesday in the second of the two-game set. Scherzer joined the team in Arizona on Saturday.

“It’s going to be a fun homestand,” Roberts said.

The Dodgers also play the crosstown rival Los Angeles Angels at Dodger Stadium later this week.

Justin Turner hit his 20th homer with a three-run shot in the seventh and Betts connected off catcher Bryan Holaday, pitching the ninth, for his 15th. Betts was 2 for 5 with a walk and two runs scored.

One run would have been enough for the Dodgers. Julio Urias (13-3) pitched five scoreless innings and three relievers gave up no hits over the last four, capping the four-hit shutout.

A.J. Pollock peppered his former team with four hits, extending his hitting streak to 11 games.

“He’s carrying us right now,” Roberts said of the outfielder, who is batting .526 against Arizona this season over nine games.

Smith (3-8) struggled to find the strike zone for the Diamondbacks, walking five in 1 2/3 innings and throwing 70 pitches. The last pitch was Pujols’ three-run double on a full count. He walked Chris Taylor with the bases loaded to force in the first run.

“I hate walking guys. I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight,” Smith said. “Walks have killed me. I’ve gotta figure it out.”

Manager Torey Lovullo stuck with his starter because he got two outs after loading the bases before walking Taylor, giving up an infield hit to Turner and finally Pujols’ big hit.

“You want to give your starting pitcher a chance to work through those early-inning problems,” Lovullo said. “We needed Caleb to give us 4 or 5 innings. We were trying to get him through.”

Urias finished at 83 pitches, walking none and striking out seven while limiting Arizona to four singles.

To make room for Betts, the Dodgers optioned utility man Zach McKinstry to Triple-A Oklahoma City. Los Angeles also selected the contract of RHP Yefry Ramirez from Oklahoma City and sent RHP Mitch White, Saturday night’s starter, back to the Triple-A team.

The Associated Press contribute to this report.

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Kris Bryant joins ex-Chicago Cubs teammates Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez in mashing debut homer

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Kris Bryant on Sunday joined former Chicago Cubs teammates Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez in making an immediate good impression with his new team.

The now San Francisco Giant hit a two-out solo shot in the third inning of a 5-3 win over the Houston Astros. Two days earlier, Rizzo crushed a 449-foot solo home run in his New York Yankees debut while Baez mashed a two-run dinger in his first game with the New York Mets the following day.

The former Cubs became the first trio of ex-teammates in the Modern Era to start the season on the same team, and then homer in their respective debuts with a new team later that season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Acquired in a trade with the Cubs for two minor league prospects just minutes before Friday’s deadline, Bryant was greeted by chants of “KB, KB, KB” when he trotted onto the field for pregame warmups and received a standing ovation before his first at-bat.

The four-time All-Star was cheered again after striking out swinging. Those cheers got louder after Bryant crushed an 0-1 pitch from Luis Garcia (7-6) into the left field stands for his 19th home run this season.

“It’s nice to really feel welcome,” Bryant said before the game. “Barry Bonds was my favorite player. I still have the autograph that my mom went and bought at the mall. Now I’m here. It’s kind of weird.”

It wasn’t a perfect debut for Bryant, who started at third base. His throwing error on Martin Maldonado‘s grounder down the line in the fifth gave the Astros a runner in scoring position with no outs. Logan Webb retired the next three batters to work out of the jam.

Still, Bryant made it clear how valuable he will be to the Giants as they attempt to stay in front of the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres in the NL West.

“It’s a bat that really lengthens our group and makes our bench better,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said of Bryant. “It makes it more difficult to get through the top of our lineup. He’s going to be good for us.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Alex Cora encouraged as Chris Sale, Kyle Schwarber move steps closer to joining Boston Red Sox

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Boston Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale will make a fifth minor league rehab start later this week for Triple-A Worcester as he moves closer to pitching in the majors for the first time since Aug. 13, 2019.

Sale had Tommy John surgery in March 2020.

“We’ll re-address the situation after that but he’s getting close,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said before Sunday night’s game at Tampa Bay. “We’ll see where it takes us.”

Cora said Sale “felt great” one day after allowing one run over five innings Saturday for Worcester.

The Red Sox had lost four of five entering Sunday, including the first two games of a three-game series with Tampa Bay, that dropped them a half-game behind the AL East-leading Rays.

There is also encouraging news about recently acquired slugger Kyle Schwarber, who is currently out with a hamstring injury. He will take part in an off-day workout Monday in Detroit.

Schwarber will continue doing defensive work at first base where the team hopes he will be able to play at the unfamiliar position. He is nearing a rehab assignment.

“We’ll sit down on Tuesday or Wednesday and see where we’re at,” Cora said. “As far as the progress of the injury, we’re excited. The progress has been great. We’re hoping he goes on a rehab assignment sooner rather than later.”

Boston got Schwarber from Washington for a minor league pitcher last Thursday. He last played on July 2.

Utilityman Marwin Gonzalez (right hamstring strain) will also join the team for Monday’s workout and could be back Tuesday night when the Red Sox open a three-game series with the Tigers.

Right-hander Matt Andriese (right hamstring tendinitis) had a live batting practice session.

Reliever Brandon Workman, designated for assignment last Thursday, was outrighted off the major league roster and elected to become a free agent.

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