Murton was in the starting lineup for Class AAA Iowa on Wednesday night and finished with a season-high three hits as the Cubs defeated New Orleans, 6-4, at Zephyr Field. He drove in two runs and hit the ball hard in four of his five at-bats.
“Maybe he was a little more aggressive today,” Listach said of Murton.
When it was then suggested that perhaps Murton was playing with a chip on his shoulder, Listach replied: “Maybe he should. Maybe you play better like that.”
Although Murton has played parts of three seasons in Chicago, he was passed over for a big league promotion Wednesday when the Cubs recalled Eric Patterson from Iowa to take the place of DL-bound outfielder Alfonso Soriano (right calf strain).
Murton seemed like a safe bet to take Soriano’s spot on the Cubs’ 25-man roster, but Chicago had their reasons for selecting Patterson instead, Special Assistant to the General Manager Gary Hughes said.
“[Lou Piniella] felt that we should be a little more left-handed,” said Hughes. “We’re a little too right-handed and I think that’s part of it. (The other part is) Patterson was doing a little better down here, whereas Matt’s gotten off to a little slower start.”
Murton entered the week with a .400 batting average in nine games but was hitless in nine at-bats prior to his 3-for-5 outing Wednesday. He said the performance had nothing to do with carrying a grudge over not being called up.
“Not at all,” said Murton. “Eric’s a good ballplayer. We go back a long time together. Being here for a while and in the game for a while, nothing takes you by surprise.”
Yet the Cubs seemed to feel that Murton wasn’t his typical self on Wednesday.
Asked if he saw anything different out of Murton than in previous games, Listach (rhetorically) asked: “Did you?”
Moreover, Hughes quipped before the game: “He took a tremendous batting practice and was taking his frustrations out on the ball. I think you’ll see a very aggressive hitter tonight.”
He was right.
Murton started the night by going to the opposite field with a sharp single to right off New Orleans starter Joselo Diaz in the first inning. With the bases loaded and one out in his next at-bat in the third, he lined into a hard-hit double play as Zephyrs second baseman Argenis Reyes made a leaping grab to rob Murton of two RBIs.
New Orleans’ pitching wouldn’t be as fortunate in the fifth, as Murton took a Diaz offering and sent it back up the middle for a two-run single. He struck out in the seventh – the only at-bat in which he didn’t make solid contact – before closing the night with a solid single to center off Zephyrs reliever Robert Paulk in the ninth.
Overall, he made opposing pitchers work and got into favorable counts.
“He had a great night,” Listach said.
While Murton has been passed over for a call-up for now, Hughes said the chances of him joining the big league team this season are still strong.
“I think they’re very good,” Hughes said. “I think he’s got a very good chance of going back up. He’s just got to put some good at-bats together.”
Wednesday was a good start, but Murton isn’t getting too caught up in the moment.
“You just have to go up and see the ball and hit it. You have to stay as focused as you can and see the ball,” Murton said. “With that being said, some nights are going to be better than others and tonight I was seeing the ball pretty well.”
Murton said that just because of his past success in Chicago, he shouldn’t receive special consideration for a promotion. He batted .297 with 13 home runs and 62 RBIs in his first full major league season in 2006, and .281 in 94 games last year.
“You can’t really worry about” getting called up, Murton said. “It’s not in your control, the people making those decisions. The bottom line is I’m confident in what I can do. I’ve had success and am going to continue to do exactly what I did to be successful and work and not be satisfied.”