Daniel Nava played just 54 games in the majors last season as he spent seven weeks on the disabled list. He was first plagued by a knee injury. Then a strained groin. Nava, who signed with the Phillies in December, knew he could still play. He just needed to be healthy.
That is what made days like Thursday — when Nava homered in both of his first at-bats with the Phillies — that much sweeter.
“It does,” Nava said after the team’s 7-4 loss to the Reds. “It also makes a lot of the work that I did this offseason a little more rewarding, a little more sweeter. I lost about 10-15 pounds. That’s a good incentive to keep doing what I’ve been doing. … It’s rewarding to contribute. That’s for sure.”
Nava, 34, is the first Phillies player to homer twice in his team debut since Jeremy Giambi in 2002. Nava started in left field and went 2 for 3 with three RBIs and a walk. The Phillies plan to use him as an extra outfielder, reserve first baseman, and righthanded bat off the bench. Nava made the Phillies a day before the club broke camp, but the news seemed to be overshadowed by Brock Stassi, who made the team on the same day after six seasons in the minor leagues.
Nava’s path to the big leagues was just as unlikely. He was cut by his college baseball team and spent two seasons as the team’s manager, washing uniforms and setting up the fields. He didn’t have a scholarship and had to transfer to a junior college, which happened to have a team. Nava played two seasons there and transferred back to his old college, Santa Clara, this time on a scholarship.
The Red Sox noticed Nava in independent ball and signed him, but they stashed him as a reserve in the low levels of the minors. He outplayed that role and reached the majors in 2010, debuting against the Phillies at Fenway Park and hitting a grand slam off Joe Blanton in his first at-bat. Nava seems to have a penchant for hitting homers in his first game with a new team. But hitting homers, Nava admitted, is not part of his game.
“I hit one home run in high school,” Nava said. “And that was over a three-foot fence.”
As Odubel turns
Odubel Herrera almost ended Wednesday night’s game with an unconscionable base running mistake — trying to steal second base with two outs in the ninth inning and the Phillies down by two runs. A video-replay review showed that Herrera stole the bag. His decision still earned him a chat with manager Pete Mackanin.
“He made it,” Mackanin said. “That’s all I’m going to say.”
Then, in Thursday’s loss, Herrera showed smart running instincts. He advanced from second to third on a groundout to the shortstop deep in the hole. He scored on a subsequent wild pitch to put the Phillies ahead, 4-1.
“Great base running,” Mackanin said.
The Phillies have lost their opening series in each of the last six seasons. … Brock Stassi went 0 for 2 with a walk in his first big-league start. He aided Clay Buchholz with a sharp 3-6 double play to escape a jam in the third inning. … Both teams’ catchers — Andrew Knapp and Stuart Turner — made their major-league debuts Thursday. It was only the second time since 1900 that two catchers made their debuts in the same game. Max St. Pierre (Detroit) and Jacob May (Kansas City) did it Sept. 4, 2010. … Vince Velasquez will pitch against Nationals ace Max Scherzer in the home opener Friday at Citizens Bank Park.