Daniel Nava’s Big Game Out of Leadoff Spot Reinforces His Importance to 2013 Red Sox

Daniel NavaYou could slap any hat on Daniel Nava this season, and he’d look good wearing it.

Nava, who continues to be one of baseball’s most underrated feel-good stories, just keeps producing regardless of the circumstances.

It wasn’t long ago that Nava was an afterthought. He was considered to be, at best, a fourth outfield option, but more likely a lifelong Four-A player. Now, he’s the Red Sox’ leadoff hitter during an important series in the Bronx, and he’s acting as if he’s played the role his entire life.

Nava had four hits, including a three-run homer, in Boston’s 11-1 victory on Saturday. He was retired twice in the game. One involved a nice, six-pitch at-bat in which he worked the count full to lead off the game. The other instance involved him bouncing out to short to drive in Boston’s 11th run. In other words, they were productive outs.

What’s amazing, though, is that Nava’s accomplishments are becoming less and less surprising. Saturday’s effort was just one in a long line of many for Nava this season. The home run was his eighth of the year, and he raised his season average and on-base percentage to .296 and .398, respectively. That’s production no matter how you slice it, but it’s even more valuable when it’s attached to a guy who can bounce around — both on the field and within the batting order.

Nava has flip-flopped between left field and right field this season, which is something that’s been extra important because of Shane Victorino’s injury issues. It’s especially important in series’ like this weekend’s, as John Farrell can have Nava man Yankee Stadium’s spacious left field while Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp — two inferior defenders — handle the duties in right. Heck, Nava could even play first base if the need suddenly arose, as he demonstrated in spring training.

As far as offense goes, Nava’s approach is so well-rounded that it doesn’t matter where Farrell slots him in. He’s done a nice job of setting the table out of the two-hole, he’s provided pop and run production out of the No. 5 and No. 6 spots, and, now, we’re learning that he’s more than capable of handling the leadoff duties in Jacoby Ellsbury’s absence. The ability to get on base — something Nava has a knack for — plays well regardless of the lineup spot, but he’s shown an uncanny ability to adapt to the lineup’s needs.

Nava’s excellent performance atop the order on Saturday really just reinforces what we already know — that he’s an invaluable piece to the 2013 puzzle. But it also makes you wonder what else Nava is capable of doing for the Red Sox if other issues start popping up.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.

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