Nava taking new approach on life with him to Sox

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Nava taking new approach on life with him to Sox

BOSTON -- Control what you can control.

That was the message Daniel Nava gave me last July, as he sat in front of his locker in Triple-A Pawtucket, hours before a minor-league game.

Nava couldn't control the decisions the Red Sox made in 2011, when he played the entire season in Pawtucket, just a year after proving he could play at the big-league level when given a shot.

If you don't already know, Nava's story is unique. He went from being the equipment manager for his college baseball team, to then being purchased by the Red Sox organization for 1, to being called up to Boston and hitting a grand-slam on the first Major-League pitch he saw, to spending the entire next season searching for answers in the minors, to now, where he's received another shot in Boston, and he's certainly making the most of it.

"Daniel Nava's at-bats, his defense, he stole a base today with a real good slide at second, he has played a very good brand of baseball," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine after his team's 12-1 win over the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park. "It's what we needed. A left-handed hitter who can drive the ball a little and give you a good at-bat, and he's been doing that."

Nava was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday. When he arrived, he wasted no time, and was the first player on the field during the pregame, fielding balls off the Green Monster, for he was hitting sixth and starting in left field against the Indians.

That's where he started in every game of the four-game series against Cleveland, where he finished hitting .600 with six hits, four walks, and was hit by a pitch twice, while driving in four runs.

Sunday was Nava's best performance in the four games he played. He went 2-for-2 and was hit by a pitch twice, while driving in three runs on a pair of doubles. His first double drove in the eventual game-winning run that gave the Red Sox a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first by driving a ball the other way, off the top of the Green Monster.

At this point, Nava is doing just what he said he could last July in the minors. He is controlling what he can control.

He was just waiting for another shot. The shot that he never got after he was designated for assignment in May of 2011, in order for Boston to make room for Drew Sutton on the 40-man roster.

Nava was then outrighted back to Triple-A Pawtucket because no other Major-League organization claimed him. From there, it was a fresh start. And from there, Nava looked to improve upon his .189 batting average which included zero home runs and only 10 RBI over his first 132 at-bats in Pawtucket to begin the 2011 season.

The kid stopped pressing and let the game come back to him. He controlled only what he could control, and the biggest thing he could control was his swing.

Then-PawSox hitting coach Chili Davis told me last July that once Nava was outrighted back to Pawtucket, following the designation, there was a "huge turnaround" in his approach at the plate.

"It was more mental with him," said Davis last summer. "I said, 'Hey, youve been working on your swing since spring training. When the hell are you going to trust it? Just track the ball and whack it. Your swing's fine. Your swing's a good swing. See the ball, see where it is, see the speed, and trust putting your swing on that ball.'

"Once that suggestion was made, he was in the cage soft-tossing, and he was hitting the ball hard, was consistently on balance, and he took it out to the game. And thats the kind of player he is. When you can take it out of here -- in the batting cages and in batting practice -- and take it into the games, that's when you know that you have something. You're a good enough hitter to be able to maintain that discipline, from the cage work, to batting practice, to the game situations.

"And thats basically what he's done," added Davis. "His swing is his swing. Earlier in the year, he just wasn't trusting it. He always came up with something that didn't feel right or was wrong with it. And from the guy tossing to him or pitching to him, I didn't see anything wrong.

Nava began trusting his swing and got his batting average up to .275 by the middle of the season. He finished 2011 hitting .268 with 10 home runs and 48 RBI.

He also finished the 2011 season without another shot in the big leagues.

Under the new Bobby Valentine regime -- and whether that even matters or not -- Nava wasn't even invited to spring training. He was, however called up towards to end of the spring, and Valentine can remember being impressed with the kid who wasn't even on his radar.

"We called him up at the end of spring training and he played in a game, and he played really well," said Valentine. "Of all the guys that were on the radar, he wasn't one of them. There were some questions that were asked at that time, and he made a good impression on us in the couple games he played in spring training. And we told him so, and I think he took that into the Triple-A season, and Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler continued to praise his at-bats and his play in Triple-A.

"We were finally able to get an open roster spot, and figured we'd take a look. Ya, he's played really well."

Nava didn't just get the long-awaited call-up back to Boston because they needed a left-handed hitter. He also got the call because he was hitting .316 in 95 at-bats in Triple-A.

He's carried that success into his current role in Boston, as the starting left fielder, and he's been a big reason for the team's current three-game winning streak.

Before this, Valentine didn't really know much about the former collegiate equipment-manger-turned-pro. He just knew that his initial impression late in spring training was a good one. And his words of encouragement may have helped Nava stay on the right path.

"It's always nice to hear any positive feedback you can get, especially from the manager of the Boston Red Sox," said Nava, while recalling a spring training conversation he had with Valentine. "I try to digest it as best I can, but at the same time, I knew that if I was ever going to get back up here, there was a lot of work that had to be done."

Nava, as usual, is just taking his baseball life day-by-day. As usual, he's just controlling what he can control.

And as usual, it's working.

Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Former major leaguer Andy Marte, a one-time top prospect in the Red Sox organization, was killed in a car crash in the Dominican Republic on Sunday. He was 33.

Marte was killed the same day that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Ventura was 25. Coincidentally, Ventura was the Royals starting pitcher in Marte's final major league game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014.

Marte, drafted by the Braves in 2000, was ranked the No. 9 prospect in baseball in 2005 when the third baseman was traded to the Red Sox as part of the deal that sent shortstop Edgar Renteria to Atlanta and Marte became the top-ranked prospect in the Red Sox organization.  

Marte was traded by the Red Sox to the Indians in 2006 in the deal that sent Coco Crisp to Boston and spent five seasons with Cleveland. His best season was 2009 (.232, six home runs, 25 RBI in 47 games). After a six-game stint with Arizona in 2014, he played in South Korea the past two years.  

Metropolitan traffic authorities in the Dominican told the Associated Press that Marte died when a car he was driving his a house along the highway between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.
 

Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car crash in in the Dominican Republic on Sunday morning, according to multiple reports. Ventura was 25 years old.

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo told the Associated Press that Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of Santo Domingo. He says it's not clear if Ventura was driving.

Ventura was killed the same day former major leaguer Andy Marte died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Coincidentally, Ventura was the starting pitcher in Marte's final MLB game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014. 

Ventura was 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA for the Royals' 2015 World Series champions and 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA in 32 starts in 2016. The right-hander made his major league debut in 2013 and in 2014 went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA for Kansas City's A.L. pennant winners. 

Ironically, Ventura paid tribute to his good friend and fellow Dominican, Oscar Tavares, who was also killed in a car crash in the D.R. in October 2014, by wearing Tavares' initials and R.I.P. on his cap before Ventura's start in Game 6 of the World Series in 2014. 

Ventura is the second current major league player to die in the past five months. Former Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in Miami on Sept. 25.