|Daniel Nava and Ryan Kalish just worried about the here and now||06.22.12 at 1:23 am ET|
The more Daniel Nava and Ryan Kalish succeed, the more Red Sox fans are intrigued. After all, it’s easy to get caught up in Nava’s numbers, which include a .439 average in 14 June games including six multi-hit games that has him hitting .340 in 35 games overall. It’s easy to see Kalish race from first to third on a hit-and-run grounder off the bat of Mike Aviles in the eighth inning and say the Red Sox need that energy.
And it’s easy to wonder why – when Nava drives in Kalish with the go-ahead run on a broken bat single – both can’t stay with the Red Sox long term.
That’s not even mentioning Will Middlebrooks, who appears closer and closer to a full-time job as the Red Sox starting third baseman.
But with Nava and Kalish, it’s fascinating because of what is waiting in the wings several weeks down the road with Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury. Both are getting ready for game activity as part of their rehab programs, including Crawford on Saturday in Florida.
“I’ve been aware of it since I got called up and so I know it’s a reality,” Nava said after driving in the winning run in Boston’s 6-5 win over the Marlins. “It was a reality the last time I got called up. But if there’s anything I can do to help the team get back to where we’re hanging in there, those guys come back and have a shot, who knows where it’s going to go. I’m aware of it. I think anyone who gets called up and doesn’t have a big contract, it’s a reality.”
The reality is that left fielder Carl Crawford has yet to play a game in the second season of a seven-year, $142 million deal. The reality is that Jacoby Ellsbury is an All-Star caliber center fielder who finished just behind Justin Verlander in the American League MVP voting in 2011 and is making $8 million this season.
Nava, on the other hand, was signed to a minor league deal before spring training after making $417,500 in 2011. Kalish isn’t far behind. He’s making $483,000 this season. It’s assumed that one or both will head back to Triple-A Pawtucket when Crawford and Ellsbury return.
“Those decisions aren’t mine to make,” Nava said. “It can’t hurt but at the same time it’s not about me trying to put a feather in my cap. It’s about me trying to say, ‘Hey, this is something I did to help the team win’ and get in the right direction. They’ll make the decisions they have to make and whatever they think will help the team is what they’re going to do.”
“It’s awesome,” Kalish said of Nava and Middlebrooks. “They’ve been here a while and they’ve been doing since the day they got here. As young guys, that’s all you want to do, you want to bring fire and spark people.”
Never was that spark more evident than when Kalish went first-to-third on a hit-and-run grounder by Mike Aviles to the second baseman to set up the game-winning run in the eighth.
“If I don’t feel that true aggressive feeling of no regrets, then I’m not going to try it,” Kalish said. “But on that play, I felt really confident about it.”
Nava and Kalish’s teammates appreciate their hustle. Read the rest of this entry »
|From savior to expendable: How improved outfield depth led the Red Sox to let Marlon Byrd go||06.09.12 at 3:29 pm ET|
When the Red Sox traded for Marlon Byrd in mid-April, they were looking for someone to help fill the gaping holes in the outfield where players like Carl Crawford or Jacoby Ellsbury would have been if they were healthy.
Byrd stepped in and was at times a solid member of the Red Sox lineup, hitting .270/.286/.320 in 34 games, but he was designated for assignment following Friday’s game in order to clear a roster spot on the big league team for Daisuke Matsuzaka.
“Marlon came in here and kind of saved the day, and now he will more than likely do it with another team,” Bobby Valentine said. “Hopefully it’s not in our division or that is competing against us.”
That the Red Sox could part with Byrd attests to the dramatically different situation the club faces now than it did in mid-April. The Red Sox no longer needed Byrd partly due to the confidence they have in Darnell McDonald, who recently returned to the roster from an injury of his own. Valentine said that the final decision of who Daisuke Matsuzaka should replace on his return to Boston was between Byrd and McDonald.
“[McDonald] has had a little more history here, obviously,” Valentine said. “Coaches and all were much more familiar with him, and we feel like he might be able to give us a little more extra-base power when hitting against left-handers.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Jerry Remy on D&C: Daniel Nava can’t take Carl Crawford’s job||05.30.12 at 10:55 am ET|
Appearing on Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning, NESN Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy discussed the various position battles going on in Boston, including the inevitable fight between Carl Crawford and Daniel Nava for left field. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Nava has filled in for Crawford in left by batting .276 with 15 RBIs in 19 games, while last season Crawford batted .255 for 56 RBIs. Remy said the starting job belongs to Crawford and he will get it once he returns from the disabled list.
“If Carl Crawford were healthy, Carl Crawford would be playing. To be honest with you, I was very anxious to see Crawford play this year. I expected to see the same guy we saw in Tampa Bay. I think last year was a total adjustment for him that brought him in a little bit uncomfortable. It’s the first time he’s been in a big market like Boston, it’s the first time he’s not a big star on a team, and a lot of things had an effect on him last year. [He had] time off in the offseason where he had a chance to think about it, and you know he was getting himself prepared for this year. We’re going to see the Carl Crawford that we had seen in Tampa Bay.
“If he was ready to play today, Crawford would be in there. It’s just that simple. I mean, he’s their left fielder, he’s the guy they paid big money to get and he would get every opportunity to get that job and it would be his job and Nava would be back to being a part-time player.”
In preparation for Crawford’s eventual return, the team is fixing Crawford with a new throwing motion that will help his elbow. Remy said this isn’t something to be alarmed by, as the Red Sox are testing his arm and reconditioning it.
“For example, if he was a pitcher and he was out for a long time, what do they do? They work on the mechanic,” Remy said. “That’s basically what it is.”
|After ‘getting owned’ by Justin Verlander, Daniel Nava makes key adjustment to 100 mph||at 1:24 am ET|
How impressive was Daniel Nava‘s three-run double off of a full-count, 100 mph fastball from reigning American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander?
“That at-bat,” said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine after his team’s 6-3 win over Verlander and the Tigers, “was as good an at-bat as I’ve seen in years.”
The obvious initial reaction to seeing Nava deliver again with the bases loaded in a big situation was to think Tuesday night was just like that Saturday afternoon in June 2010 when he crushed the first pitch he saw in the majors from Philadelphia’s Joe Blanton for a grand slam.
Not so fast, Nava said after delivering the hit that played the biggest role in finally putting the Red Sox over .500 at 25-24 in 2012.
“Oh no, not at all,” Nava said. “In that case, We were down 2-1 and I was just looking for a pitch to drive to the outfield. Tonight, [Verlander] set me up in the first at-bat and I was just trying to get a good piece of the bat on the ball. He got it inside on me but I was able to just get enough on it to put it over the third baseman’s head.”
And with all due respect to Blanton, he’s not Justin Verlander, with three different fastballs, including a four-seamer that sits nicely at 100 MPH on a regular basis. Oh yeah, Verlander also features a hammer curve, slider and changeup.
His first time up Tuesday night, Nava actually worked a walk after fouling off two pitches. But he felt like he was getting dominated in the at-bat.
“Based off the first at-bat I had, I was really trying to just pick the ball up,” Nava said.
But in the fourth, the Red Sox had the rarest of chances against the 2011 AL Cy Young and MVP winner. They had the bases loaded. But after Nick Punto popped out to short, it was up to Nava to come through with two outs. He worked the count to 3-1 in a sequence that included a pair of 100 mph pitches, one that came up and in to back Nava off the plate. After swinging and missing at a 99 mph heater to run the count full, Nava made the adjustment.
“I was really having a hard time picking the ball up and so, from that point, I got that 3-1 pitch I swung through and I said [to myself] I need to shorten my swing up and fortunately, I got a pitch do that with. There were guys on base and that makes it possible for that stuff to happen,” said Nava. “I just tried to calm myself down and keep it simple.”
He took the next pitch — a 100 mph fastball on the inner half of the plate — and looped it down the left field line. Three runs scored and the Red Sox led, 4-0. No, it wasn’t a grand slam but it was arguably the biggest hit of the season for the Red Sox against the best pitcher in baseball.
“Obviously, I was excited to get that hit because there were three guys on,” Nava said. “Knowing that Verlander is a good pitcher with great stuff, you don’t know how many opportunities you’re going to get like that. For us to have guys on and get him to work a little bit with what he has, we’re trying to take advantage of it, make the most of it. It was just a good opportunity for the guys ahead [of me] to get some knocks and fortunately, it just happened to work out the way it did.
“It’s a team game. Nicky came up to me and said, ‘Thanks for picking me up.’ That’s what it’s about. It’s about whoever does to pick each other up. It’s getting ourselves the win. It was long, it was weird but we got it.”
Valentine wasn’t managing Nava in 2010 when he had his epic grand slam off the Phillies. But he was in the dugout for this showdown and loved what he saw.
“Beautiful,” Valentine raved. “I wasn’t looking at the speed [of the pitches]. I was looking at the competition. It was one of the things [media] all appreciate, fans do but guys in uniform appreciate more. It was mano-a-mano. It was a great competition. I’m proud of him. I’m happy he’s on my team.”
|Closing Time: Red Sox take down Justin Verlander, Tigers to break through .500 barrier||05.29.12 at 11:04 pm ET|
A compelling case can be made that, under the circumstances and given the degree of difficulty, the Red Sox’ 6-3 win over the Tigers on Tuesday was their best of the year.
The specter of Dustin Pedroia‘s absence loomed over the team entering the game. The task of facing Tigers ace of aces Justin Verlander — while featuring a starter in Daniel Bard who has been inconsistent — added to the daunting task in front of the Sox.
Yet they overcame what seemed like imposing odds, giving Verlander his biggest beating of the season en route to a 25-24 record. Bard was as good as he’s been in a month; the lineup received outstanding top-to-bottom contributions; and the bullpen delivered 11 outs to seal the victory. On a day when the Sox had every excuse to be flat, they delivered the proverbial character win to push past the .500 mark for the first time this year, improving to 25-24.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
– Bard showed his best pitch mix in at least a month. He summoned strikeouts when he needed them — most notably, punching out Miguel Cabrera on a nasty slider with two on and two out in the fifth, at a time when the Tigers slugger represented the tying run — and looked both assertive and confident on a night when he regularly hit 95 mph with his fastball, got swings and misses on his slider and effectively unbalanced Detroit with his changeup.
Just as he did in his previous start in Baltimore (after which Bard said he didn’t feel like himself on the mound), he allowed two runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings. But Bard flipped his walks and strikeouts totals from that game, punching out four and walking two, on a night when he featured legitimate swing-and-miss stuff as a starter. It was the first time since May 2 that he walked fewer than four, and the first time since April 27 that he punched out more than three. In other words, it was Bard’s most impressive outing in a month, and offered a reminder that while there are inconsistencies in the experiment of his move from the bullpen to the rotation, there is upside as well.
With the win, Bard improved to 5-5 with a 4.62 ERA.
– David Ortiz had a monster game. He went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles off of Verlander and a solo homer off left-handed reliever Duane Below, Ortiz’s fifth homer of the year against a left-hander. On the season, Ortiz is hitting .314 with a .966 OPS against lefties and .322 with a .997 OPS against righties. It was the first time this season that Ortiz has had three extra-base hits, and just the second time (along with a contest last July 26 against Kansas City in which he had three doubles) since the 2008 season that he has pulled the trick. Read the rest of this entry »
|Closing time: Bottom of the lineup powers Sox back to .500||05.23.12 at 4:06 pm ET|
For the fourth time this season the Red Sox are at .500, as their 6-5 win over the Orioles Wednesday improved their record to 22-22. They have yet to have a winning record this season, but they will have their chance to finally go above .500 when when they return home to face the Rays at Fenway on Friday.
All in all, it was the bottom third of the lineup who did the most damage for the Sox on Wednesday. Daniel Nava, Scott Podsednik (who was making his first big league start since 2010) and Kelly Shoppach all homered for Boston, and the trio accounted for four of the team’s five RBI on the day. The other RBI came from the No. 6 batter in Will Middlebrooks.
The Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a sacrifice fly from Chris Davis, but the Sox tied it in the top of the second when Podsednik grounded into a double play with the bases loaded. Nick Johnson hit the first of two homers on the day by sending an offering from Daniel Bard over the right field fence, but Middlebrooks’ double to left in the top of the third tied it once again.
Nava gave the Sox a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth inning with his second homer of the season, and Shoppach made it 5-2 with a two-run homer off Luis Ayala that scored Podsednik. Johnson would make it a one-run game in the bottom of the sixth by blasting his second homer of the game — this time a two-run shot off Andrew Miller — but the Sox were able to hold onto the lead and withstand an eighth-inning rally from the Orioles thanks to solid relief work from Rich Hill and Podsednik’s homer. Though Vicente Padilla stumbled in the eighth inning and allowed a run to make it a one-run game, Alfredo Aceves was able to come in and record the four-out save.
Bard tossed 5 1/3 innings for the Red Sox, earning the win on a day in which he allowed five hits and two earned runs. He walked four and struck out two while also hitting a batter and allowing the solo shot to Johnson. The Sox got to Baltimore starter Jake Arrieta for eight hits and four runs (all earned). Arrieta walked three and stuck out two in addition to allowing Nava’s homer.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
- Hill was lights-out in his brief appearance Wednesday. The Milton native came in to begin the bottom of the seventh inning and struck out both Luis Exposito (swinging) and Xavier Avery (looking) before being lifted in favor of Vicente Padilla. While Hill certainly looked sharp enough to face Robert Andino, Padilla was able to pick up where Hill left off by striking Andino out looking. The eighth inning was a different story for Padilla though, as he walked Nick Markakis and allowed a double to Adam Jones before being chased from the game by a Wilson Betemit sacrifice fly that could have done much more damage (see below).
- While Podsednik’s day didn’t get off to the best start, it ended up being a very good one for the veteran outfielder. Podsednik’s second at-bat as a member of the Red Sox had the potential for a big payoff, as he came to the plate with nobody out and the bases loaded in the second inning. Unfortunately for the Sox, Podsednik grounded into a double play that scored Kevin Youkilis but served as a wasted opportunity, as it would be the Sox’ only run of the inning.
Podsednik, who also had a sacrifice bunt in the game, did pick up his first hit of his Red Sox career when he lined one into right field with two down in the top of the sixth inning. He ended up scoring on Shoppach’s two-run homer, but the highlight of the day for the 36-year-old came when he hit a breaking ball from Darren O’Day to right field for a solo homer.
- As Alex Speier noted on twitter, Nava now has his first multi-homer season of his career. His solo shot to right to give the Sox a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth was his second dinger of the season and third of his major league career. Nava did not homer again in the 2010 season after blasting a grand slam in his first major-league at-bat.
- If there was concern about how Adrian Gonzalez could field the right field position, he took another step toward silencing those concerns in the bottom of the fourth inning. Gonzalez made a nice catch on a foul ball hit by Davis, pulling off the backhanded grab just a couple of feet before running into the wall in foul territory.
Gonzalez’ catch wouldn’t be the most critical to come in right field Wednesday, however. Che-Hsuan Lin, who came in previously as a pinch-runner for Youkilis an was moved to right field, saved the Red Sox’ bacon in the bottom of the eighth inning. With one out and runners on second and third, Lin made diving catch on a ball hit by Wilson Betemit. While the play scored Markakis, it forced Jones to stay put at second. Had the ball fallen in, Jones likely would have scored and tied the game.
- After Shoppach was unable to throw out Xavier Avery stealing second with a throw that bounced in the bottom of the second inning, Bard was able to get Avery on the same at-bat. Bard spotted Avery breaking for third and lobbed the ball to Youkilis, who tagged the baserunner on the head to end the inning.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
- The season-long walkathon for Bard continued, as he walked four Orioles in five innings on Wednesday. He now has 29 walks on the season compared to 28 strikeouts. Bard took over the team lead from Clay Buchholz (27 walks) in free passes Wednesday. In addition to walking four batters, Bard also hit Ryan Flaherty in the bottom of the second inning following Johnson’s homer. His lone strikeout of the game came in the bottom of the fifth inning, when he got Andino with an 0-2 breaking ball. He also struck out Jones, the final batter he faced in the bottom of the sixth inning.
- David Ortiz cost himself a base hit in the top of the third inning by not running hard out of the batter’s box. With nobody out and Dustin Pedroia on second inning, Ortiz grounded one into shallow right field that Flaherty, playing second base in the shift, could only knock down. Because Ortiz didn’t turn the jets on in time, Flaherty was still able to recover and throw him out at first. Ortiz went 0-for-5 with a strikeout on the day.
- Youkilis was thrown out at the plate to end the third inning after Middlebrooks lined a double into left field. The hit drove in Dustin Pedroia, but Youkilis, who was coming from first base, slowed up as he turned the corner from third base. He picked up the pace when he finally realized that third base coach Jerry Royster had been waving him home the whole way, but it was an easy play for Avery, whose throw made it Exposito well in advance of Youkilis.
|Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Daniel Nava and the lessons of adversity in player development||05.15.12 at 8:07 am ET|
Daniel Nava‘s arrival in the big leagues was one of a great and improbable player development story, a player who was undersized throughout high school and had all but given up on playing baseball at the college level — let alone professionally — before a late growth spurt led him to a batting title in the West Coast Conference, an independent league tenure and, eventually entry into the Red Sox system. At 27, he hit a grand slam on the first pitch he saw in the majors on June 12, 2010, and while he endured ups and downs that year, he played in 60 games and hit .242 with a .351 OBP and .711 OPS as a rookie.
But just as quickly as he rose from obscurity, he returned to it in 2011. On May 20, he was hitting .189 with a .574 OPS in 36 games, and the Sox designated the switch-hitter for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Drew Sutton. Any team in baseball could have had him, but instead, Nava sailed through outright waivers and remained with the Sox in Triple-A.
He could have lamented his fate, dwelled on the reality that his trip to the majors in 2010 might be his only shot. Instead, he used that moment as an opportunity to reset and renew his career.
“I struggled a lot for a while last year. It allowed me to find myself again as a hitter,” said Nava. “I wasn’t myself. I was trying to do a lot of things that put me in a state where I was pressing. … Unfortunately, that’s what happened, but fortunately, I learned from it. Basically, I felt like when I was hitting .199, you can’t do too much worse. I had nothing to lose. I just went back to me. And I’m glad I have another shot.
“I had nothing else to lose at that point,” Nava said. “I was designated, taken off the 40-man, all that stuff. Who’s going to pick up someone who couldn’t hit water if he fell out a boat, so to speak? It allowed freedom. Let’s just go back to me, not worry about anything and let that take over.”
The challenge he faced, in many respects, was more psychological than physical. Read the rest of this entry »
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