Daniel Nava ended Sunday’s game against Houston with a diving catch in right field to steal a hit from Robbie Grossman. It saved a run, too.
“It was just instincts” Nava said. “Just run after the ball and you’re hoping to get there.”
In the second inning, Nava made an over-the-shoulder catch of a ball Grossman hit to the warning track in right field. It ended the inning and left a runner stranded.
They were the kind of plays the Red Sox didn’t believe Nava was capable of making a few years ago. Nava was restricted to left field when he made his debut in 2010. The belief was he didn’t have the range or the arm to play right.
The same was largely true in 2012, although injuries led to Nava playing parts of four games in right.
But Nava has started six games in right field this season because of Shane Victorino’s back injury. He has handled the position well, too.
“It’s been different,” Nava said. “You go from probably one of the shortest distances and areas you have to cover [in left] to one of the largest you have to cover in right. That distance alone makes it a little more challenging.
“I like it, but it’s taken a while to adjust to the vastness of the area you have to cover.”
Nava has improved his defensive ability significantly since his first season in the majors. He had little choice. He did not make the team out of spring training in 2011 and was designated for assignment that May. Nava cleared waivers and was returned to Triple A Pawtucket.
The Sox did not call him up once that season and didn’t even invite him to major league spring training in 2012. Nava showed enough improvement in Pawtucket that season to merit a return to the majors in May. He has stuck since.
Better defense has played a role in that.
“It keeps me in the lineup to help this team win,” Nava said. “It was just attention to detail. Coming up through the minors, I put it on the offense and not the defense. You have to do both sides to make it and hopefully stick. You learn from your mistakes.”
Former Red Sox outfielder instructor Tom Goodwin, now the first base coach of the Mets, helped Nava get better with the glove in 2011.
“He said, ‘Hey, there’s some stuff you’ve got to work on. Try and hammer it out.’ He was really positive about it,” Nava said.
Nava has started 14 games in the outfield this season. He also is hitting .310 with a .942 OPS. Because the switch-hitter is so effective against righthanders (.316 with a .958 OPS), he has played more than expected.
“He’s done an outstanding job defensively,” manager John Farrell said. “It speaks a lot about what he’s done personally and the work he’s put in. I don’t even think twice about putting his name in the lineup. He’s a very good player.”
Month to remember
The Red Sox can set a team record with their 19th win this month. They are tied with the 1998 and 2003 team for most wins in April . . . The American League pitcher of the month voting will be interesting to track. Clay Buchholz is 5-0 with a 1.19 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP. Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore is 5-0 with a 1.13 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP. Buchholz has pitched 5 2/3 more innings.
The Red Sox are averaging 5.1 runs per game and hitting .272 as a team. But Dustin Pedroia thinks there are better days to come. “I don’t really think we’ve hit yet. It’s been pitching,” he said. “Plenty of guys haven’t felt good offensively. We’ve played a lot of home games and the weather has been bad. You’re not going to see eye-popping numbers.” . . . Mike Napoli has 27 RBIs. The team record for April is 31 by Manny Ramirez in 2001.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.