CLEVELAND — You want the feel-good story to continue.
You don’t want the Daniel Nava story to have an unhappy ending. Not now.
One can argue whether Nava really has had a chance to get going this season. After he hit .149 in his first 75 plate appearances he was shipped to Pawtucket. He came back, didn’t do much, then was sent back. He quickly was recalled again when Mike Carp broke his foot.
The Red Sox are looking for an outfielder, in part because of Nava’s slow start, and also the uncertainty of where Grady Sizemore’s career is going, the slow offensive start by Jackie Bradley Jr., the injuries Shane Victorino has endured, and the overall poor play by the outfield.
But the Sox want Nava to get going more than anything. They miss the .303 average from 2013, the .385 on base percentage, and the fact that he saw so many pitches.
Nava was in the starting lineup Wednesday night vs. Cleveland with a .130 average, 2 homers and 3 RBIs in 22 games after hitting .253 with 3 doubles, 3 homers, and 14 RBIs in 24 games at Pawtucket.
Manager John Farrell spoke before Wednesday night’s game, which was delayed by rain, about trying to get Nava going by creating good matchups for him.
They loved those patient at-bats last season that blended so well with Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia, and others in the lineup. That was missing early this season.
Nava was asked what it will take to get him going again. Is it simply a matter of playing more consistently?
“Man, I don’t know,” he said. “I wish it was as simple as just playing and things got better. Obviously the first step is getting a chance to play. In the minors I got a chance and I was getting to where I should have been or needed to be. Obviously things changed when I got back up with a lot of different alignment options as far as offense and defense so I’ve had to bide my time. So hopefully I get the chance to go out there and get things in the right direction."
It has been mentioned in a few places that Nava has changed his approach and is swinging for the fences.
“I don’t know where people come up with that idea,” he said. “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. I never just step in the box and try to hit a home run. Never. When you’re not going well there’s obviously going to be things out there. My approach hasn’t changed. I haven’t done a single thing that’s different.”
Nava said there was “probably some mechanical stuff that changed, but it wasn’t conscious. I worked with our Triple A hitting coach, who noticed some things that were different than when he worked with me in the past. So we just got back to what that was when he worked with me in the past. Since I’ve been back I haven’t had a lot of opportunities, but the opportunities I have had I’m happy with my swings. I’d be happier if the ball was falling between some infielders and outfielders, but we worked on mechanical stuff, just to get the feeling of what I used to do and getting back.”
Nava said he wasn’t aware the Red Sox were seeking an outfielder. The funny thing is, teams were looking for Nava at this time last season.
“I didn’t even know they were [looking],” Nava said. “I don’t pay attention to stuff like that. I understand that’s what they’re saying but I’d like to think I’ve proven that over 65 at-bats I can help a team and if you’re looking at just 65 at-bats as to what I’m capable of doing or what anyone can do, that’s not a fair representation of what anyone can do. Everyone struggles.
“I understand the nature of the whole team that a move had to be made. I’d like to think over the course of a season that I can help the team. I understand there’s a business aspect to it and something has to be done. A player is going to say he can help the team and an organization has to decide whether he can or can’t. So it’s not obviously my decision to make.”
As an Independent League player, who seemingly didn’t have a chance to make it to the big leagues and did, Nava is now dealing with survival again.
“Of course it’s frustrating,” he said. “You want to play and go out there and do something similar to last year or better. To not do what you’ve done in the past or to not be playing to the level you’re used to it’s a little disconcerting. But I’m here. I’m glad to be here. It’s better than being there [Pawtucket], and I don’t know how long I’ll be here.”
Nava said he hasn’t had to listen to a lot of people offering advice, not that he’s against hearing it.
“I think if I was 20 or 21 and this was happening, I’d probably get more,” he said. “I’ve had guys come up to me and encourage me and say, ‘Hey, you’re going to get going, it’s gonna get going.’ And I think we’re heading in the right direction. It’s frustrating that I haven’t been able to get things going as quickly as I’ve wanted to. But I just have to let go of things I can’t control and concentrate on the things I can control.”
He thinks he’s farther along lefthanded than righthanded. He doesn’t think pitchers are working him differently, either.
“Everyone in this locker room wants to be better than they are right now,” Nava said. “We all want to win and get back to the things we were doing last season. That’s the goal. To see it get this far out of that rhythm from last season is tough.”
A big thing is not letting criticism get into his head.
“You hopefully think you can do that to some extent,” he said. “I like to think I can. I get on myself way more than anyone else would. The less people in my head the better chance there is for me to motivate myself. That’s why look for good swings, and when they happen to recognize them. The results are outside of my control. Once you start focusing on whether they’re falling or not falling, rather than the process, you really get yourself frustrated. And I don’t want to do that.”
So Nava gets his chance again to get back the 2013 feeling.
It’s been gone for a lot of Red Sox this season, but Nava feels there’s time for one of the best rags-to-riches stories to still have a happy ending.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.