Red Sox

MLB Rumors: Former Red Sox OF Daniel Nava pitching comeback, trying to beat odds again

MLB Rumors: Former Red Sox OF Daniel Nava pitching comeback, trying to beat odds again

SAN DIEGO — Daniel Nava is no stranger to long odds.

The Red Sox famously bought the former college equipment manager, sight-unseen, for a dollar out of independent ball in 2008. The late bloomer then bashed his way to the big leagues two years later at age 27, launching a grand slam in the first pitch of his first at-bat before playing a key supporting role in the 2013 title.

Now closing in on his 37th birthday, Nava hasn't appeared in the majors since 2017 with the Phillies. He signed with the Pirates in 2018, but a back injury necessitated surgery, which led to an infection, and he ended up spending 18 months on the sidelines.

He made a comeback with the Kansas City T-Bones of the independent American Association last year, hitting .288 in 71 games. That was enough to convince him he's not done, and so this week he's wandering the halls of the Manchester Grand Hyatt at baseball's winter meetings like any other job seeker, albeit one with seven years of service time and a World Series ring.

"It's a funny turn of events to bring it almost full circle to where you're doing the same thing you did at the start," Nava told NBC Sports Boston. "I remember when I sat in (Mike) Hazen's office (in 2008) and he more or less said, 'Why should we keep you?' I had to sell myself on the spot. Fortunately, I don't think it mattered what I said, because they were going to give me a shot. That's what I'm hoping for right now, is just a shot again. It's not like I haven't been here before."

Nava carved out a solid career with the Red Sox, especially given where he started. The 5-10, 195-pound switch hitter spent parts of five seasons in Boston, delivering some memorable hits along the way. In addition to the grand slam off of Philly's Joe Blanton in his debut, he also blasted the game-winning homer vs. the Royals in the emotionally charged return to Fenway after the Marathon bombings in 2013.

"No one saw that team coming," Nava said. "We knew how good we were in that clubhouse, but I don't think anyone outside that clubhouse, especially after that previous season, saw it. We knew we had something special."

Nava said he's fully recovered from the discectomy that sidelined him for all of 2018 and half of 2019. He might have retired to his offseason home in Nashville, but those 71 games of independent ball convinced him otherwise.

"I wanted to see if A, I could still do it, and then B, would a team be interested in me?" Nava said. "A was possible, and now B is what I'm here to trying to see — if I can get one more final look, one more shot."

He's representing himself on this mission alongside fellow independent leaguer Shawn O'Malley, a Kansas City resident and 31-year-old former utilityman with the Angels and Mariners who hustled to San Diego directly from a wedding two hours outside Atlanta to pitch a comeback of his own.

"I do have an agent," Nava said. "But I need to do this in person, so teams can see that physically I'm not dead."

Nava said he has reached out via text to contacts in multiple organizations, including the Red Sox. As if on cue, a member of the team's video staff stopped Nava in the lobby to wish him well.

"More or less text communication, nothing face to face," he said. "Obviously a return back to where everything started would be meaningful, but I understand how this business works."

And to that end, he's willing to start all over in the minors, if that's what it takes, and bring this journey full circle.

"I want a shot," he said. "And I'll take whatever — and I mean whatever — I can get. I'm not going to be a veteran who says, 'How dare I go to the minor leagues?' Having been in a position like this so many years ago, it brings me back to that point of just having a hunger and a desire to want to play, and that's where I'm at right now."

Red Sox vs. Blue Jays Highlights: Alex Verdugo homers twice in Boston's second straight win

Red Sox vs. Blue Jays Highlights: Alex Verdugo homers twice in Boston's second straight win

FINAL SCORE: Boston Red Sox 5, Toronto Blue Jays 3

IN BRIEF: Alex Verdugo homered twice and Mitch Moreland added one of his own in the Red Sox' win over the Blue Jays on Friday night. The Red Sox capitalized on a woeful outing from Blue Jays starter Tanner Roark, who walked five batters and allowed four runs in three innings pitched.

Sox starter Ryan Weber allowed two runs in three innings, then the bullpen put together an admirable effort to preserve the lead.

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

BOX SCORE

RED SOX RECORD: 5-8

HIGHLIGHTS

Well, that escalated quickly

Verdugo's first Fenway homer

Moreland's two-run shot

Vlad Jr. brings Jays within one

Homer No. 2 for Verdugo...

...and then he robs one!

UP NEXT
vs. Blue Jays, Saturday, 7:30 p.m., NESN
vs. Blue Jays, Sunday, 1:35 p.m., NESN

Red Sox players erect perfect Fenway Park tribute to Dustin Pedroia

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File photo

Red Sox players erect perfect Fenway Park tribute to Dustin Pedroia

Dustin Pedroia may not be with his teammates this season, but that doesn't mean he can't watch over them with an iron glare from the best seats in the house.

Red Sox players asked if cutouts of family members could be placed in the box seats behind the home dugout, and the first row includes quite the intimidating image -- Pedroia and his three sons staring at the field, arms folded sternly.

From left to right, Cole, 7, Dylan, 11, and Brooks, 6, mimic their father's pose. All four were fixtures at Fenway Park in recent years before injuries took their toll and effectively ended Pedroia's career.


(Photo via Barry Alley)

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

Until being injured on a questionable slide by Manny Machado in 2017, Pedroia was on his way to making a borderline Hall of Fame case for himself. The former Rookie of the Year and MVP played an integral part in two World Series championships, and also earned a ring after appearing in three games for the 2018 club.

The four-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glover went just 2-for-20 in six games last year before shutting it down, probably for good. His six-year, $85 million extension expires after next season.

Even if his Red Sox career is over, his impact on the franchise is not, which is why his teammates have chosen to honor him in a way that perfectly suits his bleep-talking, larger-than-life personality -- by glowering at them like he's about to hurl an insult.


Xander Bogaerts poses next to cardboard cutouts of his mom, Sandra Brown, and his uncle, Glenroy Brown (Photo via Barry Alley).