Heading into spring training, the outfielder wondered about
his future with the Red Sox organization. After regressing in 2011 — in which
he hit 10 home runs and 48 RBIs while hitting .268 in Triple-A — Nava entered
the unknown in Fort Myers.
At that point, Nava's lone legacy remained as the journeyman
who drilled a grand slam on the first pitch of his first career at-bat
on June 12, 2010. Since then, he'd gradually fallen off the organization's
By spring training, the outfielder had plummeted so low on
the totem pole that he wasn't invited to big-league camp.
"I had no clue what was going to happen," Nava
said. "Was I even going to make any team?"
Fortunately for the 29-year-old, he received another chance
with the Pawtucket Red Sox. Unlike last season, Nava started off scorching hot,
unloading three home runs and 17 RBIs in 27 games.
And then came the call. On May 10, the Red Sox promoted Nava
to the majors and slotted him sixth in the lineup against the Indians, hoping
the outfielder could provide another left-handed threat.
Nava never looked back. Six home runs, 33 RBIs and 88 games later, he finished the 2012 season with the Red Sox and
credited his rebirth to shuffling around the priorities in his life.
"I think I put baseball as the most important thing in
my life — because I got to the big leagues the year before and I wanted
to get back," said Nava, who insisted God returned to being No. 1 in his
life. "So I made it my identity and that's just not what it is.
"This year, I realized it's something I love doing, but
there's more to life than just baseball and it allowed me to go on the field,
relax, have fun and make the most of the opportunity I had in front of me. I
think before I didn't do that and I grabbed it too tightly. Then I was just
putting pressure on myself, so I tried to learn from that this year."
The first step of that process took place on May 14, when he
blasted a two-run home run. When the ball left the yard, Nava added his first
round-tripper since his memorable grand slam — a sequence that spanned 205
"I'm glad it happened, you don't want to be like
'Alright, I have one and that's it,'" Nava said. "But it wasn't like
I went home and was like 'I haven't hit one in 557 at-bats.' If you keep things
in perspective, I wasn't supposed to be here in the first place so to get
another one was sweet."
Through the first two months of the season, Nava was an OPS
machine. By the end of June, the outfielder had amassed an .896 OPS, showing his
ability to get on base via hits, walks and hit-by-pitches.
After the All-Star break, however, Nava was slowed by a
nagging left wrist injury that required two stints on the disabled list — and
a brief rehab stint in Pawtucket. He was slated to undergo surgery in the
offseason to remove a ganglion cyst from his wrist.
Even with the discomfort, Nava wanted to battle through the
pain and finish the season in September. After all, he wasn't even supposed to
be in this position just eight months ago.
"I think the good thing is when you're not feeling at
your best and not feeling ready to rock and roll, you can still do the little
things," Nava said. "That's what I tried to do this last month and a
half as I've been battling this wrist thing.
"If I'm not feeling comfortable, at least I can move a
runner from second to third or take a walk or get hit by a pitch and not be
completely useless. If that doesn't work then bring the glove to the field and
try to do that. I'm just grateful they were like 'Hey, we're going to give you
a shot and play for us.'"
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