Nava continues to impress with Sox
SAN FRANCISCO -- So, the kid doesn't have everything figured out just yet.
"No shorts to the field,'' Daniel Nava said. "I had no clue. If I did, I would never have worn them.''
The Red Sox will tolerate the breach of protocol, especially something as minor as inappropriate road attire on a hot summer's day. Especially considering the major impact Nava has made since his arrival from Pawtucket 12 days ago, when he walked into the clubhouse with a résumé out of Ripley and a dramatic flair borrowed from Olivier.
The kid could have lived off his opening act forever, a grand slam on the first pitch he saw in the majors, which is one more big league pitch than he could have imagined seeing while playing for the Chico Outlaws in the independent Golden League.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Michael DwyerDaniel Nava is hitting .350 in his first 11 games with the Red Sox.
Instead, it's just been one long Feliz Nava-dad so far for the 27-year-old rookie who grew up in the same Northern California hometown (San Carlos) as Barry Bonds and played against the same high school (Serra) that produced Tom Brady and Lynn Swann, but missed the express lane to stardom they took. His road to the Red Sox was one protracted hairpin turn -- an undersized nonentity on his high school team, manager of his college team, junior college transfer, cut by Chico. But since getting here, it's been a joyride, with his grateful Sox teammates happily piled into the backseat.
"I don't care,'' manager Terry Francona said of the road Nava has taken to the big leagues. "However they got here, the whole idea is for people to help us win. He's done a terrific job so far. He's actually given us a boost.
"I don't know if that's always fair [to expect], when someone comes up. You always hope so. He swings at strikes. He looks like a mature hitter. I mean, he is a mature hitter. He just doesn't have big league experience. That doesn't seem to be throwing him. He's handling himself real well.''
The scouting report on the switch-hitting Nava should be labeled: Handle with care. So far, he has reached base in all 11 games in which he has played. The first-pitch grand slam off Joe Blanton of the Phillies. A week later, also on national TV against the Dodgers, a ninth-inning base hit and winning run scored on Dustin Pedroia's walk-off hit.
Wednesday night against Ubaldo Jimenez, Nava did something no other hitter has done this season against the Rockies' uberarm, driving in three runs with two doubles hit almost to the exact same place, the gap in right-center field. Only two players, Conor Jackson of Arizona and Aaron Hill of Toronto, had knocked in as many as two runs against Jimenez, who allowed six runs against the Red Sox after allowing a total of 13 all season.
Obviously quaking in his cleats, no?
"Not even a little bit,'' Francona said. "That's OK. We've been trying not to inundate him with stuff. Just let him go about his business.''
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In Thursday night's wild 13-11 win over the Rockies, Nava touched off a go-ahead three-run rally in the seventh with a base hit. Even when he whiffed, he made things happen. In the eighth, he reached first base on a third-strike wild pitch, and scored ahead of Pedroia's second of three home runs on the night.
So, how to explain the nova that is Nava?
Maybe you start with this: After all he has been through -- remember, he was washing teammates' uniforms for two years at the University of Santa Clara -- he comes to the big leagues figuring he has nothing to lose.
"Yeah, you appreciate that,'' Nava said of his humble beginnings. "I'm sure it helps. I've only been up here [a short time], but there's no need to sit here and draw ridiculous comparisons. I know that's healthy.
"Honestly, coming up and not having a lot of expectations about being a prospect makes it easier. You don't have to live up to a bar being set. I'm sure a lot of things have played into what has happened so far.''
On Friday, Nava returns home to Northern California with the Red Sox for a three-game weekend series with the Giants. His mom, Becky, and father, Don, managed to make it to his big league debut in Boston, walking into Fenway just as the Sox were taking the field. That night, they celebrated at the Capital Grille, the club gladly picking up the tab.
He should have plenty of family and friends at AT&T Park this weekend.
"When they listen on the radio,'' Nava said, "my mom, she closes her eyes when I come up to the plate. My dad's like, 'Shut up, shut up.' He's whispering. Complete opposites.''
Nava doesn't know when this journey ends, nor does he care. For the kid labeled a nonprospect his entire life, those whispers have sounded like a roar.
"There's nothing I can do about how I'm looked at,'' he said, "except to go out on the field and do my job. That's what I really try to do. I know it sounds corny and simple, but getting bitter and frustrated wasn't going to get me anywhere. So that's what I try to do.''
Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He has covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.
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