BOSTON — It’s been an eventful few months for Daniel Nava.
Nava secured a major league roster spot, learned a new position, delivered a few big hits, jumped into the American League All-Star discussion and became a father. It all has the potential to be overwhelming, yet Nava looks like he’s just getting started.
Nava enters Sunday’s game against the Yankees having reached base in a career-high 29 straight starts since June 22. He has a .345 average (38-for-110) and .407 on-base percentage in that span, and he’s hitting .407 (11-for-27) in 10 August games. The power hasn’t exactly been there — Nava hasn’t homered since June 18 — but the 30-year-old continues to be one of the Red Sox’ most productive players, even as his playing time has fluctuated.
“This is clearly the highest number of at-bats he’s had at the big league level,” manager John Farrell said Sunday. “We gave him a few days to kind of regroup physically. There might have been some fatigue setting in with him where he hasn’t been accustomed to this number of at-bats. It’s all getting a read on how they’re reacting, the at-bats you see and just giving guys a spell when they need it.”
Nava’s true value this season stems from his versatility, both offensively and defensively. Farrell has been able to slide Nava up and down the lineup, and he’s also able to move Nava around the field because of the long-time outfielder’s willingness and ability to learn first base during spring training.
“He’s filled a number of roles,” Farrell said. “With Mike [Napoli] being down, the next right-handed bat obviously is his at first base. He responded well against [Mark] Buehrle the other night in a similar situation, although there’s going to be a different type stuff that he’ll face tonight [against CC Sabathia].
“He provides a lot of in-game flexibility as well,” Farrell continued. “If we’ve got a pinch-hit situation with either Mike Carp or Jonny [Gomes], we can shift him back and forth from the outfield to first base. When we approached the first base thing in spring training, I had no idea it would be this flexible and this much of an advantage for us, and it’s turned out very well.”
Nava’s start at first base on Sunday is the seventh of his career. The Red Sox would certainly prefer that he remain in the outfield, as it’s his natural position and it would indicate that Napoli is both healthy and productive. But when the time calls, Farrell knows that he has an extra first-base option that once seemed unconventional but now seems reliable.
Nava has been on a wild ride since February. The Red Sox’ overall run has been that much smoother because of it.