Daniel Nava taking first things, first: ‘There’s a lot to learn’ about playing 1B
|02.15.13 at 7:28 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Daniel Nava has been in the Red Sox system since 2008. That’s long enough to know that the more versatile you are, the more valuable you are to an organization, especially when you’re fighting to stay in the big leagues.
So, when it was suggested that he take some grounders at first base during the early stages of spring training, he wasn’t about to turn his nose at the thought.
‘I haven’t played there in pro ball,’ Nava said Friday. ‘I played there back in college. There’s a lot to learn. So I got some good guys throwing me some stuff. But you can’t fake live reps. So that’s the next thing hopefully that goes well too. But the same thing, it’s new. So I’m just trying to go one day at a time.
‘From what I’ve been told it’s just something that [the Sox are] interested in. They said you got a shot and it can help the team out.’
Nava knows he has shown the organization he is willing to work hard on his defense in the outfield. Will that translate to the infield?
‘Yeah, I think it does,’ he said, “because at least they know compared to where I came in 2010 to last year defensively, they’re like, ‘Hey, there’s hope that he actually can maybe block a ball or keep a ball in front of him.’ And obviously that helps when you’re in the organization, if I was new coming here, I think it would probably be less likely if that happened, I guess.’
Nava has been in Fort Myers since early February. Since then, he’s been working on his skills at first, hoping to prove to the Red Sox that he could be a viable back-up to the likes of Lyle Overbay, Mitch Maier, and Mauro Gomez, all of whom have big league experience at first base. That list doesn’t even include Mike Napoli, whose future at first – or anywhere – was still uncertain, with the Red Sox awaiting MRI results this week on his hips.
Nava figures to most certainly get plenty of reps during Grapefruit League games at first. He’ll be paying close attention to Overbay, who has played over 1,200 games at first base in 12 seasons after playing outfield in college.
‘I talked to him about his transition from the outfield to the infield,’ Nava said. ‘That helped me a lot. And certain things that you can’t replicate until you get game experience, which is good to know because it’s different compared to playing first base in college, as you would obviously assume with playing first base in the big league and the quality of hitters. So it helped me out a lot, set me in a little more peace. But still it’s new and that first experience is always going to be hopefully better than it could be for the worst.’
Offensively, Nava has had significant stretches where he’s shown himself as a viable major league hitter. Aside from hitting his first pitch ever in the majors for a grand slam off Philadelphia’s Joe Blanton in 2010, he started off 2012 red-hot, batting .300 with an .895 OPS in his first 38 games. But in the final three months, he tailed off, finishing at .243/.352/.742 in 88 games.
But the priority, at least early on this spring, is finding out if he can handle the duties at first, giving the Red Sox a switch-hitting bat they can move between the outfield and first base. He realizes he’s on the outside looking in at first base, for now.
‘I can’t consider myself [a first base option] because this is still new,’ said Nava. ‘It’s not like I’ve played three years at first and three years in the outfield. It’s just something we’re trying out. But if that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes. It doesn’t really matter to me. If that’s what they need me to do, it’s fine.
‘As far as I know it’s just, ‘We want you to take some stuff at first and we kind of want to see how you look first.’ [Red Sox management] had no clue. So I understand that they can’t really say too much when they don’t really know what I’m going to do or if I’m going to be stumbling all over myself. So it hasn’t been too much communication in that regard.’
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