BOSTON -- Despite entering Saturday’s game batting just .067, going 1-for-15 against Rays’ left-hander David Price, the reigning American League Cy Young winner, Daniel Nava is in the starting lineup, batting sixth, playing left field.
Nava enters today’s game batting .421, going 8-for-19 in six games this season, with a double, three home runs, seven RBI, four walks, and one strikeout, for a .520 on-base percentage, and .947 slugging percentage.
The Red Sox have faced left-handed starters four times so far this season, but Nava has been in the starting lineup for just one of those games, April 8 against the Orioles’ Wei-Yin Chen. In the other three games, Jackie Bradley, Jr., was the starting left fielder.
In his career, Nava, a switch-hitter, has been better against right-handers (.266/.372/.418) than he has been against lefties (.205/.323/.357). Today, though, Nava is the starting left fielder, with Bradley on the bench. Bradley, after a fantastic spring training, has gotten off to a slow start this season, hitting just .120, going 3-for-25, with just one extra-base hit.
Nava is in the lineup between right-handers, third baseman Will Middlebrooks and designated hitter Jonny Gomes.
“Look at everyone’s matchups as part of the decision making,” manager John Farrell said. “We talked about how confident Daniel is right now. And at some point in this game the ability to break up those right-handers is going in to be needed and without too much pinch-hitting or emptying the bench to strictly match up. That’s where Daniel’s in the middle of this. But, no, I realize he’s 1-for-15 coming into the day against Price. But I think overall he’s put up very good at-bats consistently as good as anyone in our lineup on either side of the plate.
“Part of the history is weighted differently. Also recognize when he came up last year prior to [Nava’s hand] injury he was probably the hottest hitter the team had, and it’s again the case this year. So whether it’s riding the hot hand or just playing on the momentum that he’s started and generated himself with his own performance, we’ll ride it as long as we’re capable of.”
But at some point the development of Bradley, one of the Sox’ top prospects, must be taken into account. Farrell had said before the season, the decision to add Bradley to the roster would only work if Bradley were playing every day.
“It is a balance,” Farrell said. “I think going up against a guy like Price or Chen with maybe some of the recent developments with Jackie over the past three, four days, still wanting to put the most competitive lineup we can on the field. And were’ not here to say there’s roster changes that are going to take place just because Jackie’s not playing for the second time in four days. That’s not what we’re here about. But we’ll continue to find the right combinations and that would include Jackie in different scenarios as well.”
- Left-hander Felix Doubront, whose scheduled start Friday was pushed to Tuesday in Cleveland because of the rain-out, pitched a two-inning simulated game Saturday morning.
- DH David Ortiz (heels, right Achilles) will serve as the DH in the first game of Triple-A Pawtucket’s seven-inning doubleheader Saturday afternoon. He is scheduled to get three or four at-bats.
- Left-hander Franklin Morales (back) pitched two innings yesterday with no problems. He showed good arm strength and had no problems with his back, Farrell said. He is scheduled to pitch three innings with about 50 pitches on Wednesday. After that he will begin a rehab assignment, making a start for Double-A Portland before a start for Pawtucket.
The original plan for him in spring training was to get stretched out so he could be used as depth for starting pitching. His rehab assignment will be on a starter’s schedule. When he is activated, if he is working out of the pen, the Sox would look to begin him in clean innings before bringing him in with runners on base.
- Left-hander Craig Breslow (shoulder) is scheduled to pitch in a simulated game today, and could get into an extended spring training game on Tuesday.
- Farrell said he is hopeful right-hander John Lackey (biceps) could begin playing catch in the next couple of days. Lackey will go out on a rehab assignment before the Sox activate him.
- Pregame temperatures were in the high 30s, with first-pitch expected in the low 50s. Games throughout baseball have been affected by cold and precipitation the last few days. Farrell, who said the worst weather he played in was during a heavy snowstorm while pitching for the Indians in Cleveland, believes pitchers have the advantage in cold weather.
“The ball's not going to carry as much,” he said. “I don’t think hitters are fond of getting jammed in 30-degree weather. And you find the guy on the mound is going to be the warmest guy in the ballpark.”
Farrell does not believe cold weather contributes to an increase in injuries.
“I don’t know that you see a higher rate of injuries because of the temperature,” he said. “I think once guys get loosened up, and guys are going to layer their clothing or whatever, I think they find ways to stay relatively warm. I don’t think you see the speed of the game the same just because of coldness, or range of infielders may be a little bit less. But I don’t know that there’s a greater rate of injury.”
Asked if he thought baseball should devise a standardized set of rules for postponing games because of cold weather, Farrell replied:
“I think everybody does a pretty good job as far as assessing the current weather conditions. I think you get to a point where temperature really starts to factor in, whether that’s in the low 20s or mid 20s or whether it’s wind chill. There’s a number of different factors. I don’t know that you can say here’s the threshold that you can’t play below a certain temperature, because it’s going to be different from city to city and day to day. But I do think, in genera,l the players' safety and certainly the comfort for the fans are always taken into account.”