Pawtucket Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava (left) is congratulated by first base coach Bruce Crabbe after lining a single to center field during the home half of the fifth inning of Friday nightâ€™s game at McCoy Stadium. PHOTO BY LOURIANN MARDO-ZAYAT
PAWTUCKET â€” The Daniel Nava that reported to McCoy Stadium Friday afternoon appeared to be in good spirits.
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For the former independent league ballplayer whose rags-to-riches tale has been well documented, the fact the Red Sox shipped him to the minors after 67 at-bats is not going to yield fits of rage. Sure, Nava is disappointed with his .147 start at the plate and the .240 on-base percentage he compiled in 17 games with the Red Sox, but this is someone who has already beaten much bigger odds.
Taking a look around the field following batting practice, Nava remarked, â€śThereâ€™s a lot worse things to deal with than playing Triple-A baseball. Obviously, every guy down here wants to be in the big leagues. Thatâ€™s the goal, and Iâ€™m blessed that God has given me that opportunity; Iâ€™d love to get another one.â€ť
No, Nava didnâ€™t expect he would be optioned to the PawSox. No, he wasnâ€™t surprised, either.
â€śIt wasnâ€™t anything I thought about. I donâ€™t read articles or anything â€¦ I try to focus on everything on the field,â€ť said Nava when asked if he felt there was a chance that he would be the odd man out once Shane Victorino was activated from the disabled list. â€śIt was something that I definitely wasnâ€™t expecting, but at the same time, when it was brought to my attention, I understood why. I just want to go out and play better, and this is an opportunity to do that.â€ť
As much as Boston manager John Farrell implied that Nava was the odd man out due to him having options, itâ€™s impossible to ignore the struggles, small sample size aside. The 31-year-old was in a 2-for-23 slump prior to going 2-for-4 on Marathon Monday against Baltimore, a game that proved to be his final one â€“ at least for the time being â€“ in a Red Sox uniform.
â€śThey told me that they want to get me going and hope that this can be an opportunity to do that,â€ť said Nava. â€śI feel that thereâ€™s no one to blame or get mad at them for anything. It also doesnâ€™t matter if I view (getting sent down) as this or that. The whole goal for everyone in that clubhouse is to get up or back to Boston. For me, this is an opportunity to get back on track, which is the best way I can really look at it.â€ť
Nava drew a walk in his second plate appearance Friday after striking out on three pitches in the first inning. For someone who built his reputation as a selective hitter, the sight of him chasing pitches early in the count this season seemed a bit out of character.
That said, Nava insisted that thereâ€™s nothing wrong with his mechanics.
â€śMy swing is relatively simple,â€ť he noted. â€śWhen youâ€™re not doing well, itâ€™s a combination of a lot of things. I was probably swinging at pitches that I shouldnâ€™t have or being too aggressive in certain counts. Sometimes things didnâ€™t fall like you hoped they would fall.
â€śI think that simplifying it is the best way to describe it. What does that mean for me? It means not doing too much, trusting my reactions and not worrying about the results,â€ť added Nava.
By no means is Nava a stranger to these parts. He suited up for the PawSox for parts of three straight seasons (2010-12) before spending the entire 2013 campaign with the parent club. He is also reunited with hitting coach Dave Joppie, as the pair worked together for 32 games during the 2009 season in Double-A Portland.
â€śItâ€™s not like Iâ€™m around guys I donâ€™t know or not comfortable with. I know a lot of these guys, and we have good times together,â€ť said Nava. â€śThatâ€™s the positive side and what Iâ€™m staying on. I need to embrace this opportunity and focus on the things that I got sent down for.â€ť
Nava follows in the footsteps of Daniel Bard and Will Middlebrooks, two players who began the season with the Red Sox before things spiraled out of control so much that the only course of action to take was being demoted. In the case of Bard and Middlebrooks, both players had their eyes on a quick fix and hoped that after a week or so of getting back on track in a lower-pressure setting, they would return to the majors.
With a straight face, Nava doesnâ€™t envision himself falling in such a trap.
â€śIf I think about anything except whatâ€™s in front of me â€¦ those are decisions that are not up to me. Those decisions that once I start trying to factor in, what I think or how long I should be here, Iâ€™m almost doing (the front officeâ€™s) job for them,â€ť Nava pointed out. â€śThatâ€™s not my job.â€ť
Before turning the page and getting back to work, Nava spent Wednesday and Thursday with his wife Rachael and infant daughter Faith.
â€śIt was good to spend time with the family. Knowing the potential situation thatâ€™s ahead for me, I wanted to make the most of the two days I had,â€ť said Nava. â€śIt was a lot of fun, but now I get refocused on what lies ahead.â€ť
Navaâ€™s future with the PawSox will include seeing time in center field. Itâ€™s a position heâ€™s played three times since signing with the Red Sox organization in 2008.
â€śThe more positions I play, I think the better. I relish that opportunity,â€ť he smiled. â€śI know I have to be ready for a couple of different positions.â€ť
PawSox skipper Kevin Boles said that Nava was upbeat and loose upon walking through a familiar set of doors that guards a clubhouse that is far from foreign to him.
â€śObviously heâ€™s a little disappointed, but knowing him, heâ€™s going to work hard and get himself back on track,â€ť said Boles, confidence etched in his tone.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03