Coming soon to Braves: Sean Murphy homers in first at-bat in months

Catcher starts Gwinnett rehab assignment with bang
Atlanta Braves catcher Sean Murphy takes batting practice during spring training workouts at CoolToday Park, Saturday, February, 17, 2024, in North Port, Florida. (Hyosub Shin /



Atlanta Braves catcher Sean Murphy takes batting practice during spring training workouts at CoolToday Park, Saturday, February, 17, 2024, in North Port, Florida. (Hyosub Shin /

LAWRENCEVILLE — Braves catcher Sean Murphy suffered an oblique injury on opening day. He couldn’t do any activity for two weeks. Eventually he was catching and throwing, but not hitting. Next came batting practice. At one point it seemed Murphy was close to beginning a minor-league assignment, until he wasn’t.

Murphy said “day-by-day” is how it works with his injury.

“Just listening to it as it goes,” Murphy said Tuesday. “It’s the only thing you can do.”

Finally, over the past week, Murphy’s body told him the same thing every day. He said he “comfortably” performed his full pregame routine with no pain each day and wasn’t hurting the next day, either. So, Murphy reported to Triple-A Gwinnett to begin a rehabilitation stint and immediately proved that his swing is game-ready.

In his first plate appearance vs. Jacksonville, Murphy smashed a home run that hit high on the batter’s eye in straightaway center at Coolray Field (estimated distance: 449 feet).

“The results are pretty irrelevant (compared to) how I’m feeling,” Murphy said. “But that’s good to see. It makes you feel like the bat speed is there.”

The big homer surely will make Braves supporters even more eager to see Murphy back in the lineup to help the team’s slumping offense. Murphy couldn’t say when that would happen. The plan is to rejoin the Braves once he’s strung together some games with no pain.

Murphy said he’s had no issues with batting practice, but taking paced swings against balls thrown straight down the middle is different from hitting professional pitchers in live games. But Murphy made it look like batting practice during his first live at-bat in nearly three months. He belted right-hander Kyle Tyler’s 2-0 pitch cut fastball over the center field wall.

Before calling it a night, Murphy had three more at-bats (two groundouts and a four-pitch walk) and caught seven innings (he threw out a base stealer at second in the third). He’d planned to play five innings.

“It was going smoothly, so there’s no harm in going a little over,” Murphy said.

There were no signs of rustiness for Murphy, but he can’t be overeager to return to the Braves. He’s a big swinger who likes to pull pitches. To rush back could be risking a quick return to the injured list. The hope for the Braves and Murphy is that his patience will pay off and that his bad injury luck is behind him.

“That’s the idea, right?” Murphy said. “Hopefully, no more.”

The Braves have 107 games left after Tuesday’s contest in Chicago. Murphy played 108 games last season. If he stays healthy, then he could take on a big workload for the rest of the year. The Braves need Murphy even more than it seemed when he went on the IL. They aren’t hitting like they should, and Murphy was one of their best sluggers in 2023.

No. 2 catcher Travis d’Arnaud has been great at the plate, but less playing time will be good for his health. D’Arnaud has suffered four concussions during his career and sat out two games last weekend after a batted ball hit his mask. No. 3 catcher Chadwick Tromp is good defensively, but his lack of offensive punch stands out with the Braves collectively slumping at the plate.

Murphy picked up the slack last season when d’Arnaud sat out for 27 games while recovering from a concussion. Now D’Arnaud is doing the same with Murphy on the IL. D’Arnaud has played catcher for 263 of the team’s 394-2/3 innings. Among MLB catchers with at least 100 plate appearances, d’Arnaud ranks tied for third in home runs (five) and sixth in OPS (.859).

Murphy’s return could boost the lineup. D’Arnaud, designated hitter Marcell Ozuna and second baseman Ozzie Albies are the only lienup regulars producing. Ronald Acuña Jr., Matt Olson, and Austin Riley haven’t been bad, but their production is well below their All-Star standards (MVP standard, in Acuña’s case). Outfielder Michael Harris and shortstop Orlando Arcia have scuffled.

The Braves traded for Murphy largely because he’d become one of MLB’s best defensive catchers while with the Athletics. He lived up to that billing with the Braves in 2023 while also producing the best offensive season of his career. Murphy’s .873 on-base plus slugging percentage and 5.2 fWAR ranked second among full-time catchers (one player the Braves traded as part of the deal for Murphy, Milwaukee’s Wilson Contreras, ranked No. 1 in both categories).

Murphy’s durability also was a plus for the Braves. He played 148 games for Oakland in 2022 with 1,004 innings at catcher. Murphy had never been on the IL during five MLB seasons. That changed after his fateful swing-and-miss on Matt Strahm’s pitch in Philadelphia on March 29.

Rest was the prescription for Murphy for several days following the injury. He tried staying connected to the team by helping with scouting reports, but it was a “very boring” time, Murphy said.

“Excited to be here playing baseball again,” Murphy said before the Stripers’ game against the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. “It’s not fun being on the IL but this is going to be another step forward and hopefully be back in the lineup soon.”

Then Murphy went out and showed why the Braves need him back.