Editor's note: NESN.com is going to tell the story of the 2012 Red Sox in Bobby Valentine?s words. Each game day, we will select the best Valentine quote that sums up the day for the Red Sox.
Daniel Nava has looked every bit as good a baseball player as any guy on the Red Sox roster in recent weeks.
Since the 29-year-old career minor leaguer was called up on May 11, he's been everything that Bobby Valentine would have wanted and a whole lot more. The Red Sox manager admitted as much after Boston's 7-2 win in Toronto on Friday night, praising Nava for his tremendous effort on the field.
"Everything we could have ever expected, and about 10 more things," Valentine said with a look of extreme admiration. "He's just playing a terrific brand of baseball."
Nava, who went 4-for-5 with three doubles on Friday, raised his batting average to .314 in 22 games with the major league club this season. His approach at the plate is certainly impressive and deserves great kudos, but what's been considerably overlooked in his underdog story is the consistency of his defensive effort.
He continues to impress with his defensive abilities and made another spectacular catch, leaping to snare a high-flying liner in left field at the Rogers Center. It really is tremendous how precise he is as a defender, not to mention that he may in fact have the strongest arm of any outfielder on the Red Sox roster.
Nava is a player who thrives off of intensity and pressure, an undersized talent who has clearly had to work — and work incredibly hard — for everything he's achieved. Now, as guys like Cody Ross, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford work their way back into the Boston lineup, though, the future of Daniel Nava in a Red Sox uniform is beginning to look much bleaker.
Is it just a given that Nava will be forced to retreat to the bench and ultimately even back to the confines of McCoy Stadium with the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox? Or has this 22-game stretch been evidence enough to prove Nava's worth at the big league level?
His on-field performance has certainly been enough to earn a more permanent role on the squad, but it's also his excitement and leadership that have really solidified his place with the club. Nava brings the hard, grind it out-type intensity needed for a team with such star players and egos. He's the type of player that feels fortunate to be surrounded by such talent and works each moment, both on and off the field, to ensure that he's proving his worth to the team.
So when Ellsbury, Crawford and Ross make their triumphant returns to the field amid plenty of fanfare, look for Nava to stick around. He has staying power. He may not offer the same sort of talent as an Ellsbury or Crawford, but his role with the team is just as important.
Valentine may credit Nava with a "terrific brand of baseball," but it feels like his presence is less a brand and more a mindset. One the Red Sox could use in the lineup on a daily basis.