LOS ANGELES -- When Daniel Murphy was at the nadir of the worst slump of his Major League career, Mets manager Terry Collins bemoaned his second baseman's tendency to tinker with his swing, changing the types of things that made him successful in the first place.
So with Murphy coming off his best game of the year Wednesday afternoon in Chicago, Collins hopes that performance will give him enough confidence simply to stop tinkering.
"This game is so psychological with the confidence factor," Collins said Thursday, "that when you're up at home plate and you're swinging the bat good, you're saying, 'OK, yeah, I've gotten where I want to be' -- when you haven't done anything except battle through it. There's not really anything ever changed except your mental outlook. In Dan's case, we've always known he can hit. We've told him he can hit. We just told him to relax, let all those physical gifts come into play. And yesterday I thought was a good breakout day for him."
Collins knows that he cannot stop Murphy from tinkering when things go awry -- not that he would want to, anyway. Attention to detail is one of the reasons Murphy was able to work himself from a 13th-round Draft pick to a Major League regular; discouraging that type of work ethic could be counterproductive.
But tinkering or not, Murphy finally appears to be on the upswing following an 8-for-61 (.131) stretch with just two extra-base hits earlier this month. The second baseman has four extra-base hits over his last four games, including his first two home runs of the season on Wednesday.
As a result, Collins started him at second base Thursday against Dodgers left-hander Chris Capuano, despite a hesitance to play Murphy against lefties throughout the latter half of his slump. Murphy should receive his only off-day this weekend Sunday against left-hander Clayton Kershaw, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner.
"We all know when Dan's swinging good, he's dangerous," Collins said. "Not that he hits homers, but he's a dangerous hitter. So we hope that this is a stepping-stone certainly for him to get better."
Mets' travel issues make for 'grueling' first half
LOS ANGELES -- The Mets have found a new way to be snake-bitten of late, enduring the types of flight delays and travel issues not typically of issue for professional sports teams.
The team charter flight was delayed in Chicago more than four hours Wednesday due to a mechanical issue, finally arriving in Los Angeles past midnight local time. That came three days after the Mets endured a brief delay on their late-night flight from New York City to Chicago, arriving at their hotel after 4 a.m. and appearing noticeably sluggish during Monday's loss to the Cubs.
"I salute our players," manager Terry Collins said. "It has been disrupted, and been disrupted with delays and late arrivals and early days and late games. It has been a grueling first half."
Thanks to gaining two hours on the way to Los Angeles, most Mets players were nonetheless able to enjoy a full night's sleep Wednesday at their Beverly Hills hotel. But Collins is wary of the toll that travel issues have taken on his team.
"We're just going through a streak of bad luck right now when it comes to travel," the manager said. "It's nobody's fault. That's just the way it is."
Outfielder Jason Bay has been riding a stationary bike in New York and remains on track to begin baseball activities this weekend. Bay has been on the disabled list since June 16 with a concussion.
In a nod to his superlative first half of the season, top prospect Zack Wheeler has been named to the Eastern League All-Star Game. Wheeler, 22, is 7-3 with a 2.29 ERA in 13 starts for Double-A Binghamton and will also participate in next month's Futures Game in Kansas City.