Nava happy to contribute again

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Nava happy to contribute again

TORONTO -- The 2012 season has been both a revelation and a disappointment for Daniel Nava.

In one sense, he got an opportunity to re-start his career and took full advantage in the first half of the season, showing an ability to get on base and much improved defensive play in the outfield.

But Nava has also twice had his year interrupted with injuries, with two stints on the DL because of a hand issue limiting his playing time.

Friday night, with the season sputtering to a close for the Red Sox, Nava enjoyed a complete game, starring in the field and at the plate in the Red Sox' 8-5 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

In the fifth, with the bases loaded and two out in a tie game, Nava singled to right, scoring two runs and giving the Sox their first lead of the night.

"It's been a while since I've been out there,'' said Nava. "So to get an opportunity to be in that situation and have a count where I was able to get a pitch to do something with, it felt really good. Especially, since the other night (against the Yankees), I had a couple of opportunities and wasn't able to even move the runner over or even get a runner in on a sac fly.

"It was like, 'Gosh, that's how it feels again,' after so long.''

But Nava's biggest contribution of the night came with his glove. The Jays had tied the game on a Brett Lawrie double in the bottom of the eighth and Adam Lind hit a slicing liner to left.

Nava raced over and went into a slide, grabbing the ball inches off the turf. He then scrambled to his feet and made a strong throw to second which nearly doubled up Lawrie.

"Off the gap,'' he said, "I thought it was it was in the gap, so I was heading that way. It kind of came back. Instinctcs took over because I didn't think I was going to have to dive for it. It just happened.''

Nava was angry that his throw to second short-hopped second baseman Mike Aviles, who couldn't hold onto the ball even though the throw beat Lawrie back to the bag.

"I was frustraed with myself because I should have taken into account the (artificial) surface we were playing on,'' said Nava. "It has a little more bounce to it, a little spring, and I think it was a tougher play. It worked out because it meant a lot to keep (Lawrie) from scoring initially, but there's two parts to a play.''

Even though he couldn't record the double play, his teammates were suitably impressed.

"That was awesome,'' gushed catcher Ryan Lavarnway. "Man, that was one of the most spectacular catches I've seen all year. Especially in a tie game...it would have (led) to the go-ahead run. The way things have been going, you don't know what would have happened. I thought it was a game-saving catch.''

Drellich: Pomeranz among reasons Red Sox pitching depth is so good

Drellich: Pomeranz among reasons Red Sox pitching depth is so good

BOSTON -- Drew Pomeranz’s first start in a Boston uniform of at least six innings and three hits or fewer came Wednesday night, 364 days after his first start with the Red Sox following a trade with the Padres last July.

The lefty’s consistency this season has been one of the most pleasant surprises, and ultimately a stabilizing force in the Boston rotation. The Red Sox are 9-2 in his last 11 starts and he’s gone at least six innings in six of his last seven now. His ERA in that span is 2.13.

"I had a good year last year, but I feel really good this year with all my pitches," Pomeranz said. "I feel really good with all my pitches on both sides of the plate, which is something I've never really had before. I've made some adjustments mechanically, where I am on the rubber and things. Just really tried to focus on pitching arm-side with everything, which I was always good on glove side. I think that has helped me put this string together."

The rotation is deep. Deep enough that the Sox are slotting in seven pitchers in a seven-game stretch. Somehow, there were eight starting pitchers on the Red Sox roster Tuesday. One of them, Brian Johnson, started in a 5-4 win over the Blue Jays that took 15 innings, and another, Hector Velazquez, finished it out in extras.

Both Johnson and Velazquez went to the minors on Wednesday when the Sox added Ben Taylor and Kyle Martin to the bullpen, the latter getting to the big leagues for the first time. 

But the contributions of Johnson and Velazquez on Tuesday, followed up by Pomeranz’s work on Wednesday, are indicative of an increasing strength for the 2017 Sox: not just the very top of the rotation, but its depth.

That depth, you’ll recall, was never assured. Far, far from it. 

David Price was injured at year’s start. Pomeranz’s health was in question to begin the year. 

Steven Wright was lost for the season. Velazquez’s first big league start looked bad. Kyle Kendrick’s time in the majors did not go well. Eduardo Rodriguez was lost for a month and a half because of a knee injury.

Yet the Red Sox entered Wednesday with the third-best rotation ERA in the American League, 4.09. Chris Sale and Price are as frightening a potential playoff one-two punch as you can find. 

There's a lot more going on.

“There’s always the adage you never have enough pitching and certainly when you start Brian Johnson, what’s he had, four major league starts in his career?” Pitching coach Carl Willis said before Johnson’s start Tuesday. “So, while there’s still a certain amount of inexperience there, we’ve seen the ability play out. We’ve seen him go out and throw a nine inning shutout here in Fenway Park. Hector Velazquez has stepped in a couple of situations and pitched very well his second time back with the club and Doug Fister is a guy who has had some very very good years. 

“And while he’s maybe not exactly the same guy he was six, seven years ago, he’s still a guy with four pitches and he understands how to pitch, how to change speeds. So you know, when you look at the front end with Sale, with Price throwing as he is, with Pomeranz throwing as he is now, getting Eddy back, it’s a very very talented group of guys that we feel very confident in.”

Price, somehow, is throwing harder this year than last.

“You know, I can’t tell you 100 percent the reason why,” Willis said. “I think some of it is his possibly attributed to when you have an injury, the rehab process and how the throwing is monitored and the strengthening factor of that rehab process is, I think, so much more intensified or detailed because you’re dealing with certain specific areas. 

“I really think, you know, it’s a byproduct of those things, and it’s been a pleasure to watch. Obviously, he was dominating on Sunday night in a game that we really needed a performance like that. It gives you. A lot of optimism going forward to see him throw the baseball like that.”

Porcello seems to have righted the ship, with a 3.31 ERA in his last five starts.

“I do [think he’s turned a corner],” Willis said. “I felt for a while that he was close, that he was making small steps getting there. We’re seeing much better command now at the bottom of the strike zone, and that allows him to at times then elevate. But it starts with the bottom of the zone, and I think he’s in a place right now, we’re starting to see that consistency of that.

"And when he does that, hey, he’s still a contact-oriented pitcher and there are going to be ground balls and there are going to be some hits. But that’s who he is, and he can be successful that way, as we’ve seen. And I think he’s at that point right now."

Throw in the healthy return of Rodriguez and the continued success of Pomeranz and extras like Fister, Johnson and Velazquez, the Red Sox have choices. Options.

Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski arguably took a risk when he dealt away, of all people, Clay Buchholz. Buchholz, of course, wound up needing surgery once he got to the Phillies.

But the Sox pitching situation felt far from comfortable to begin the year, for one reason or another. It's comfy now — about as comfy as can be, anyway. And Dombrowski and the Red Sox, from the medical staff to the coaching staff to the pitchers themselves, deserve credit for getting to this point.