FORT MYERS, Fla. — Brock Holt and Daniel Nava are the ying and yang of the Red Sox bench. And manager John Farrell acknowledges how well the 2015 Red Sox come together could hinge, in part, on how these two super subs perform.
Daniel Nava hit .300 for the final four months of 2014 while Brock Holt was the only American Leaguer to start at seven different positions over the course of the 162-game season. Holt missed the final 21 games with a concussion but still managed to hit .281 with a .331 OBP and four home runs.
“We’re never restricted by late-inning moves because we’ve got the versatility with those two guys,” Farrell said Monday. “They’re talented players that you can build in some off-days for other guys and rotate them through and seemingly not skip a beat. It goes back to the depth of our roster and the talent that’s there.
“The key is with David being a full-time DH, Brock’s versatility really allows [for substitution options]. Where many teams might use the DH spot to rotate guys through and get them off their legs on a given day, Brock is that built-in player to do that with David in the DH spot. We didn’t know this going into last year but the fact he started games at seven different positions, he put himself in a unique category around the league.”
Holt became Boston’s most productive utility player — and baseball’s most versatile — as Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, Will Middlebrooks and Shane Victorino all battled through injuries.
“He’s a good baseball player,” Farrell said. “He’s shown an improved arm strength as we put him over at shortstop the last couple of years, an above-average runner and clearly what we saw in the outfield were good reads and routes when playing all three positions.
“Maybe one of the better stories of the otherwise overall frustrating year was his versatility and how he improved as a player.”
As for Nava?
“Daniel is going to be in the same role that he’s been in the last couple of years, a versatile guy that plays first and the two corner outfield positions. Clearly, with the number of right-handed hitters that we’ve got at first and the outfield, his left-handed bat is a great compliment. I think in the last two years, he’s proven himself to be a very good major league hitter. Even though with early challenges last year, he bounced back and finished strong. Just a pure left-handed hitter that I think we’ll see a little bit more attention to the left side, particularly in camp here.”
Farrell noted Monday that Nava’s season took off in June when he returned from Triple-A and stopped trying to hit for power and reverted this line drive mentality at the plate.
“I don’t know if Daniel would admit it or not, I think he looked to drive the ball a little bit more so we saw a number of balls in the air, uncharacteristic to his swing,” Farrell said. “When he’s right, he’s a line drive hitter, particularly in the left-center field gap as a left-handed hitter, kind of a spraying the ball around the field. But the number of balls he hit in the air kind of lend to maybe an attempt to drive the ball a little bit more. He got back to that [line drive approach] really early June and beyond, and that’s when he’s at his best.”
Nava didn’t argue Farrell’s assessment, admitting that he pressed a bit last season. Nava had the chance at the starting right field job to start the season when Victorino wasn’t ready for the opener, but he couldn’t claim it for his own.
“I had that going into last year but I didn’t do a very good job of holding onto it for a little bit,” Nava said of his .149 April average. “Of course it would be [nice] but in the same boat, I am used to stuff kind of like this. It’s not that I don’t want that but it’s not like this is the first time I’ve been in this position.”
“But I would obviously the other opportunity but that’s not to say I’m not grateful for what I have. I had a lot of other opportunities that weren’t playing baseball so I’ll take this one.”
Nava says he can’t wait to be apart of a team with so much roster potential.
“Probably as much as you guys are,” Nava said. “Our starting staff, Hanley, Pablo, you get a healthy [Mike Napoli] here. You get a healthy Victorino. You have young outfield guys. You’ve got Allen Craig coming back probably being the Allen Craig he’s used to being. It could be a lot of wakeup calls for a lot of people. It could be so we’ll see. That’s why you play the games, right?”