FORT MYERS, Fla. — Daniel Nava, a switch-hitter, always has been better from the left side. Thus, it was encouraging to see the Boston Red Sox outfielder go deep from the right side in his first spring training plate appearances Saturday.
Nava ripped a solo homer over the left field fence against Minnesota Twins left-hander Scott Diamond in the first inning of the Red Sox’s 6-2 loss on Saturday. Nava, who was held out of the Red Sox’s first three spring training contests because of neck discomfort, didn’t show any signs of rust despite his personal viewpoint.
“I don’t know. I think I closed my eyes and the ball hit the bat,” Nava joked after exiting Saturday’s game. “… Those first couple of swings weren’t too good so I was trying to shorten things up, and fortunately I got a good pitch and fortunately the ball went over the fence.”
Nava enters the 2014 season with a career .292 average and .390 on-base percentage from the left side; far better than his .223 average and .307 on-base percentage from the right side. But despite the discrepancy in production — Nava has a career .833 OPS as a lefty and .634 OPS as a righty — Nava is looking to close the gap in an effort to become an even better all-around hitter.
“I’ll take any of them, left-handed or right-handed. It doesn’t matter,” Nava said. “But obviously I know that I have work to do from the right side, so any time I can just put together a good at-bat, whether the result is a home run or not, I think that’s for me one of the things I’m trying to let spring training be about.”
Nava again figures to be an important part of the Red Sox’s mix this season. But although he made tremendous strides in 2013, the 31-year-old outfielder, who once found himself toiling in independent ball, isn’t getting ahead of himself in his preparation.
“I certainly don’t take it for granted. The road and journey that I’ve had to this point is one of the main reasons I can’t take it for granted,” Nava said. “It’s an opportunity. Last year was an opportunity to make the team. This year is an opportunity in a different regard. But either way, I look at it as I have an opportunity.”
Nava’s first opportunity of 2014 went about as well as the Red Sox could have hoped.