Apr 8, 2013, 5:55 PM EST
Daniel Nava was the unlikeliest major leaguer in any starting lineup today. And it’s safe to say a lot of Red Sox fans were disappointed to see him starting over Jackie Bradley Jr. in left field in the Fenway Park season opener.
Nava, though, rewarded manager John Farrell’s show of faith with a homer over the Green Monster that scored all of Boston’s runs in a 3-1 victory over Baltimore. It was his second homer on the young season.
To say that Nava took a rare path to the majors would be underselling it. The kid weighed 70 pounds as a freshman in high school. He failed to make the Santa Clara University baseball team as a walk-on, settling for a gig as an equipment manager until he could no longer afford tuition and left for junior college. After a successful year of baseball at the College of San Mateo, he returned to Santa Clara, this time on a full scholarship, as a senior and hit .395.
Of course, Nava still went undrafted. He tried out for the independent Chico Outlaws of the Golden Baseball League in 2006 and failed to make the team. Trying again in 2007, he made the team, hit .371 with 12 homers in 256 at-bats and got himself signed by the Red Sox.
After a couple of years in the minors, Nava was called up by the Red Sox and became the second major leaguer ever to hit a grand slam on the first pitch he ever saw. And then he went almost two years without another major league homer. After he hit a modest .242/.351/.360 in 161 at-bats as a rookie in 2010, the Red Sox left him in the minors for all of 2011. Summoned back last year, he hit .243/.352/.390 with six homers in 267 at-bats. This year, he made the team out of spring training for the first time and has two homers and six RBI in four games.
Now, the 30-year-old Nava is the very definition of a fringe major leaguer. For all of his hard work, he may yet find himself back in Triple-A in a couple of months. Even so, it’s incredible that he’s come this far. From 70-pound weakling to college equipment manager to indy league tryout cut to Boston Red Sox outfielder qualifies as an unprecedented path.
For more on Nava’s background, see Brian MacPherson’s feature in the Providence Journal from 2010.
Jan 29, 2015, 10:50 PM EST
High-spending teams like the Yankees and Red Sox are among the favorites to sign Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada, but the Rays are also interested even if it’s fair to call them a long shot.
Jan 29, 2015, 9:21 PM EST
Beachy is currently 10 months removed from the second Tommy John surgery of his career.
Jan 29, 2015, 8:02 PM EST
Cotts compiled a 2.84 ERA in 131 appearances with the Rangers over the past two seasons.
Jan 29, 2015, 7:04 PM EST
Billingsley hasn’t pitched in the majors since undergoing Tommy John surgery in April of 2013.
Jan 29, 2015, 6:45 PM EST
Add another name to the list of fifth starter candidates for the Braves.
Jan 29, 2015, 5:42 PM EST
Nava requested $2.25 million and the Red Sox countered at $1.3 million.
Jan 29, 2015, 3:30 PM EST
I guess it’s better than snakes. Or wasps.
Jan 29, 2015, 3:15 PM EST
Santiago spent last season with the Reds, hitting .246 with a .667 OPS in 75 games.
Jan 29, 2015, 2:31 PM EST
Belisario was awful for the White Sox last season, allowing 46 runs in 66 innings.
Jan 29, 2015, 2:04 PM EST
This is funny. But also insightful.
Jan 29, 2015, 1:00 PM EST
Does this man look like he’d be a friend of a guy like Pete Carroll? Welp, he is.
Jan 29, 2015, 12:45 PM EST
He’ll work with union chief Tony Clark.
Jan 29, 2015, 12:30 PM EST
We can, from now and forever, refer to Werth as the “The Nationals’ ex-con right fielder.”
Jan 29, 2015, 11:30 AM EST
Brad Pitt was too young to portray him, though. Maybe Kevin Kline could’ve?
Jan 29, 2015, 11:22 AM EST
Good luck, Devin.
Jan 29, 2015, 10:39 AM EST
Kris Bryant of the Cubs tops the list.
Jan 29, 2015, 10:15 AM EST
Francisco Rodriguez? Rafael Soriano?
Jan 29, 2015, 10:01 AM EST
He’s gonna get big pushback from the LOOGY union, but is the idea a good one?
Jan 29, 2015, 9:09 AM EST
Baseball should never fear innovation. But not all new rules are, by definition, innovation.
Jan 29, 2015, 7:58 AM EST
A glimpse into the future, you guys.
- Jayson Werth to serve five days in jail for reckless driving 42
- Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list is out 37
- Great Moments in Media Arrogance: Marshawn Lynch edition 166
- Nationals sign former Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen 11
- Ichiro Suzuki’s deal with the Marlins is worth $2 million 34
- Orioles acquire outfielder Travis Snider from Pirates 37
- Not so fast on the Bud Selig Hall of Fame talk 50
- Blue Jays sign president and CEO Paul Beeston to extension through 2015 26
- Great Moments in Media Arrogance: Marshawn Lynch edition (166)
- Rob Manfred, new Major League Baseball commissioner, suggests ban on defensive shifts (118)
- Why “Deflategate” would never happen in baseball (96)
- The Yankees are going to try to get out of paying A-Rod his contract incentives (83)
- The 2015 Braves have “gravitas” and “veteran leadership” and will have dirty uniforms. Just kill me now. (76)