Murphy, who hit .275 with 15 home runs and 74 RBIs last season, went into Spring Training as the Rangers' starting left fielder and was expecting to be out there on Opening Day. But Washington couldn't ignore the fact that Byrd hits right-handed and hit .339 in Spring Training while Murphy hit .240.
Byrd was also one of the Rangers' hottest hitters at the end of last season, hitting .349 over his last 52 games beginning on Aug. 1. Byrd got more playing time than anticipated down the stretch, because Murphy injured his right knee sliding into home plate on Aug. 6 and did not play against the rest of the year.
"I knew I had a shot to play today, but if you look at what Marlon has done the past few weeks, he's been fun to watch," Murphy said. "It's a good lineup we're putting out there today. They'll score some runs."
The Rangers then went out and laid a 9-1 rout on the Indians, with Byrd going 1-for-4 with a double and a run scored.
Byrd had a knee problem coming into Spring Training. He had microfracture surgery to repair torn meniscus in his left knee on Oct. 1 and was still recovering at the beginning of Spring Training. But he came on quicker than expected and was hitting as well as ever by the time the Rangers left Arizona, all the while making jokes about being a "fifth outfielder."
On Opening Day, he was one of three with Josh Hamilton in center and Nelson Cruz in right.
"I'm tricking everybody," Byrd said. "That's what I've been doing for seven years."
He still gets extensive treatment on both knees but said he has had no problems on the field.
"When I'm on the field ... no," Byrd said. "But it is a reconstructed knee. I feel it when I wake up in the morning. The big thing is going out on the field, being able to go 100 percent and not feel it. The recovery is good. Now it's time to take it up a notch, change gears and see how it feels tomorrow."
Washington said he doesn't expect Byrd's knee to be a factor when figuring out the daily lineup. Washington had to deal with something like that last year when Milton Bradley was coming back from knee surgery and his day-to-day availability in the field was a constant unknown. Washington said that won't be the case with Byrd.
"I think we got past that in Spring Training," Washington said. "Marlon has been sliding, sliding after balls in the outfield, running well, doing the things he needs to do to get past that. I think he's about as healthy as he possibly can be."
Both Byrd and Murphy were in the starting lineup on Opening Day last year. Murphy was in left and Byrd was in right, while Bradley was relegated to designated-hitter duty because of his knee. This year Cruz is the Rangers' right fielder.