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.

Ramirez bothered by right shoulder more than last year

Ramirez bothered by right shoulder more than last year

BOSTON — Hanley Ramirez on Wednesday afternoon acknowledged his shoulders are bothering him more this year than last year.

In specific, it’s the right (throwing) shoulder that’s bothersome, he said to CSNNE, noting it just doesn’t move as he wants it to — rotating his arm as he spoke. Asked how that happened, how it worsened, he said it was in spring training that he thinks he pushed it too hard.

On the positive side, Ramirez said his shoulders are improving.

"Honestly, yeah, it's feeling better now," Ramirez told a group of reporters. "It's started feeling better now than early in the year. I can use the top hand and drop a little bit the head of the bat. I was losing that. I was talking to [hitting coaches Chili Davis and Victor Rodriguez] about that. I've got to be able to use that top hand. Like Jim Rice."

Ramirez, who seems to always want to be playful in his interactions with the media, appeared surprised to learn that he was not hitting lefties well so far this year. He’s 5-for-35 against them.

Ramirez was out the lineup for a third straight game Wednesday, but took batting practice on the field and also took grounders at first base. As batting practice ended, he spoke to a group of reporters coming off the field.

"What am I hitting against lefties right now?” Ramirez asked in a response to a question about how he was feeling vs. southpaws.

It was low, he was told. He waited while a reporter used his phone to look up the specifics for him.

“Is it really? So it’s not me. I've got to get going because I crush lefties. It can't happen,” Ramirez said in the group. "You're kidding me. It took you long enough to tell me that. I didn't know that for real. So OK, after this conversation, let's see what's going to happen now. I'll say it. Yeah. Bring it. OK? I didn't know, I swear. Interesting. Thank you.”

Red Sox manager John Farrell wasn’t sure if Ramirez’s struggles vs. lefties was related to his shoulders. 

“Because if there’s the need or the tendency for Hanley to start his swing early because he might not feel as loose or reactive, as he might otherwise, if a left-hander’s going to sink the ball away from him or keep the ball on the outside of the plate and that early commitment might cause you to pull off some pitches, that’s one possibility,” Farrell said. “But I can’t say that’s the absolute sole reason.”

The Sox still believe Ramirez is healthy enough to contribute well.

“Without being in his body, and knowing what he’s feeling, you know, if you watch the number of hours he puts in for the shoulder maintenance, that’s real,” Farrell said. “All we can evaluate is his feedback and how he swings the bat with either the plate coverage or the aggressiveness and the ability to impact the baseball. And there has been stretches of that. I think he would be the first to admit, would like for it to be more consistent.”

Farrell was asked a bunch of questions about Ramirez on Wednesday afternoon in the usual pre-game press conference, including whether he’s difficult to manage. If that’s the case — and it sure seems so —  Farrell did not let on.

"With individuals you take the added time needed to sit down and talk things through and get a sense of where each individual player is," Farrell said. "I wouldn’t say Hanley is different than other guys in that clubhouse."

Ramirez did very well in the second half last year and was optimistic.

“It's coming along,” he said. “I think second half's coming and I'm ready for that. ... Just one click and you go from there. Like I said, I'm not going to stop working. I'm going to get hot.”

Drellich: Pomeranz lessens heat on Dombrowski's trade history

Drellich: Pomeranz lessens heat on Dombrowski's trade history

BOSTON — Drew Pomeranz is helping out Dave Dombrowski’s balance sheet in Boston.

The Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel trades have been awesome — beyond awesome, even. The Tyler Thornburg deal looks like a disaster that, maybe someday, Dombrowski will acknowledge rather than sidestep. The Carson Smith deal has produced, if nothing else, no gain. The Fernando Abad deal has not hurt the Sox, and he’s had some decent moments.

But the Pomeranz trade with the Padres, for just top pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza, stood as the most controversial of Dealer Dave’s moves until the past couple months. Now, the Cult of Travis Shaw has slowly made folks forget about Espinoza and the complicated set of circumstances that surrounded that trade.

“Rescind” is something you’re hearing less and less. 

It’s remarkable what a 2.70 ERA in a 40-inning, seven-start stretch can do. Pomeranz is looking like a lot shinier these days, particularly after Tuesday night, when he came back out despite a rain delay of more than an hour in a 9-2 win over the Twins.

From the day that 40-inning stretch began, May 25, through Tuesday, only four qualified starters posted a better ERA in the American League: Corey Kluber (1.29), Jason Vargas (2.27), Jordan Montgomery (2.52) and Mike Pelfrey (2.64).

For comparison: Chris Sale is 10th in that stretch, at 3.54. Rick Porcello has 6.08 ERA in the same time.

Realistically, where the Sox stood last season, they needed Pomeranz. He was healthy enough to throw. That’s the reality everyone who wanted the deal undone always undersold: the back of the rotation was crumbling. 

But that was just one layer of the deal.

The Padres did not provide as much medical information as they should have, and the Sox stuck with Pomeranz despite the opportunity to look elsewhere.

Espinoza hasn’t pitched for a Padres minor league affiliate yet this season. He’s playing catch from flat ground as he comes back from a forearm injury, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported recently. 

Trades, to this observer, are typically best evaluated by reviewing the process behind them — which is to say, by looking back at the information was available at the time the deal was made. And at the time, it was known that the Sox were paying for Pomeranz beyond just last season's second half. They were paying for a controllable arm who could help out the rotation this year too.

Dombrowski may well have acquired Pomeranz at his peak value, which is unsurprising. But what mattered most was whether the team believed Pomeranz could contribute effectively beyond 2016. That, once they had all the health information, whether they properly evaluated what it would mean for his future.

It looked bad when Pomeranz started the season on the disabled list. He had a stem-cell injection in his forearm in the winter, too. There wasn’t much to hang your hat on at the start of April. 

Realistically, Pomeranz probably isn’t 100 percent right now. Even within the relative world of pro baseball — where no one is ever 100 percent — Pomeranz is probably further from it than most. 

But he's powered through. Pomeranz’s attitude might actually fit Boston better than most realize. He also is, whether people want to acknowledge it or not, a pitcher with a high ceiling in terms of ability (if not innings).

He also is, whether people want to acknowledge it or not, a pitcher with a high ceiling in terms of ability (if not innings).

How Pomeranz holds up is to be seen. But the team’s judgment that he would have value beyond last season, a value worth surrendering Espinoza for, is looking better and better.