BOSTON – When the Boston Red Sox began their major league spring training camp last February, Daniel Nava could not be found.
Simple reason. He was not invited.
The man who went from the Portland Sea Dogs in 2009 to hitting a grand slam on the first major league pitch he saw in 2010, was a forgotten player in 2012.
“Of all the guys that were on the radar, he wasn’t one of them,” Boston Manager Bobby Valentine said.
At the end of Sunday’s 12-1 Red Sox win over Cleveland, that loud beeping sound on Valentine’s radar is one Daniel Nava. He notched three RBI with two doubles, was hit by a pitch twice, scored three runs, stole a base and played a solid left field.
Since being called up on Friday, he is batting .600. He has reached base 12 times in 16 plate appearances (.750 on-base percentage) and has four doubles (1.000 slugging percentage).
Asked if he knew what to expect from Nava, Valentine shook his head emphatically.
When Nava, 29, was not invited to major league camp this year, it looked as if his baseball career would likely fade away in the minors. Nava reported to minor league camp in March.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Nava said. “I was just out to make the team out of camp.”
“The team” was not Boston, but the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Triple-A team he played for last season (batting .268 with 10 home runs).
Nava was actually relaxed this spring. If you’re not on the manager’s radar, all that’s left is to play.
“I think that helped with the whole process,” he said. “Just going one day at a time, instead of going ‘I got to do this, I got to do that.’
“Sort of a ‘I got nothing left to lose’ mentality.”
But hasn’t that always been Nava’s mentality?
When Nava joined the Sea Dogs on Aug. 5, 2009, his resume as an underdog was already well documented.
• Cut from his Santa Clara University baseball team, Nava became the team manager and washed uniforms.
• He transferred to a junior college, batted .430 and became an All-American.
• Returned to Santa Clara, batted .395, but was not drafted.
• Received a last-minute tryout for the independent Chico Outlaws, made the team, batted .371 and was the Golden Baseball League MVP.
• Signed with the Red Sox and kept hitting, including a .364 average in Portland the last month of 2009.
• Began 2010 in Pawtucket before a June 12 call-up to Boston, where he hit a grand slam on the first pitch.
Nava ended up playing 60 games for Boston, batting .242.
After Nava stayed in Triple-A last year and got the major league slight this spring, it looked as if his future in Boston would be only as the answer to a trivia question.
Like other minor leaguers, Nava was called up for a handful of major league spring training games, as a fill-in.
“He made a good impression on us,” Valentine said.
If Nava was slowly showing up on the radar, his start in Pawtucket this season knocked him off, batting .188 through April 23.
Since then, Nava has batted .420 with seven doubles, a triple and two homers.
“Arnie (Beyeler, the Pawtucket manager) continued to praise his at-bats and his play in Triple-A,” Valentine said. “When we finally got an open roster spot, we figured we’d take a look.
“And, yeah, he’s playing really well.”
Nava knows how quickly things can go south.
“I’ve learned, and I still have a lot to learn,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to be done.”
And, it seems, there could be more chapters to write in the story of Daniel Nava, the underdog who would not go away even when he wasn’t invited back.
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: