SEATTLE -- Baseball was no fun for Donnie Murphy when he first arrived in the big leagues with Kansas City in 2004. "Back then, guys would say to me, 'Do you ever smile?'" Murphy said. He couldn't. He was still too worried about making the team, impressing the coaches and producing beyond his abilities.
"It was more like I was trying to hit the home run all the time," said Murphy, now the A's starting shortstop. "I was trying to make the spectacular play instead of the routine play. I put way too much pressure on myself and I was only 21, 22." Consequently, he didn't last long with the Royals: seven games in 2004, 34 in 2005 and none last season. "I saw him over at Kansas City and he looked miserable, absolutely miserable," A's second baseman Mark Ellis said. "I didn't realize he was as young as he was." During the offseason, Murphy was traded to the A's for cash considerations. It was a change he needed. "I think being in Spring Training with us really loosened him up a bit,'' Ellis said. "We joked around with him a little bit and I think he realized this game can be fun. "You don't have to be serious all the time. You can go about your business and still have fun. That has made him relax a little bit and let his talents come out. He's showing he's a pretty good ballplayer." Murphy, who is on his fourth stint from Triple-A Sacramento this season, may have found some relative permanency here. He should be the regular shortstop during the absence of Bobby Crosby, who fractured his hand Tuesday and was placed the the disabled list. He could miss six weeks. "For me, it means showing them I can compete every day," Murphy said. "It means I can give them a good look at me and show them I can handle it." He's had a decent week. Entering Sunday's game against Seattle, he had three hits in 10 at-bats, three doubles and four RBIs with three walks. "I liked what I saw of him in Anaheim and he has looked good here in Seattle," A's manager Bob Geren said. "He's hitting to the opposite field, which is really a good thing. When he drives the ball with two doubles to the opposite field, it shows he's seeing the ball and his mechanics are good. Murphy thinks of himself as a different player with a different attitude than the one in Kansas City. "I've grown a lot as a player now, the last couple years," he said. "I've improved a lot of aspects of my game. I don't let the game get to me. I think I tried a little too much. I'm having a little more fun now." Murphy said his role model as a player is his keystone teammate. "I look at Mark Ellis," Murphy said. "He plays the game right. "We're kind of like the same player. We give it our all every day. He's one of those scrappy guys." The appreciation is mutual. "I've liked Murphy since Spring Training," Ellis said. "I thought he was a really good player. Just the way he went about his business, you could tell he likes the game and he knows how to play the game." Hard outs: The A's hitters have met with some frustration during this series with the Mariners. They've had a number of hard-hit balls that seem to find leather. Marco Scutaro, in particular, has had at least two extra-base hits taken away from him by outstanding running catches by center fielder Ichiro Suzuki. Third baseman Adrian Beltre also has had a couple diving stops as had second baseman Jose Lopez, costing the A's runs. "Our job is to try to keep them from getting frustrated with that," Geren said. "You don't want them to change anything in their approach. When they're hitting the ball hard right at it people, obviously, they're getting the right pitch and making the right swing. "We'll try to keep them loose and positive. There is an element of luck in baseball, but over the long haul, it isn't that much of a factor." A's log: Outfielder Travis Buck, who was a late scratch Saturday because of a strained left forearm, did not start Sunday, but was available off the bench. Third baseman Eric Chavez missed his third straight game with a sore back. His status is uncertain for the Detroit series. ... Geren said he only needs to see how Huston Street's elbow holds up after back-to-back outings to determine his status as the team's closer. ... Both teams wore vintage 1970s uniforms, as the A's displayed their colorful green-and-gold attire. It was a Turn Back the Clock game in honor of the Mariners inaugural year of 1977. The Mariners finished 64-98 that season. The A's were 63-98. A's broadcaster Ray Fosse played 11 games for the Mariners in 1977. ... Esteban Loaiza, who had knee surgery in late May, joins up with the team Monday. It will then be decided if he should throw another simulated game on Tuesday or go on a rehab assignment Wednesday with Sacramento. On deck: The A's return home for seven games beginning Monday with Detroit. Right-hander Joe Blanton (8-7, 3.69 ERA) will face off against Jordan Tata, who will be making his first Major League start. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. PT.
Bob Sherwin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.