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Adam Kaufman

With Shane Victorino’s Return to Red Sox Imminent, Will Daniel Nava be Odd-Man Out?

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According to manager John Farrell, Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino will be back in Boston from his rehab assignment in Pawtucket soon. Possibly as soon as Wednesday.

Ever since the veteran right fielder opened the season on the disabled list, the debate over who should go upon his return has raged on. Simply put, you can’t have six guys fill five outfield spots on the 25-man roster.

My feeling a couple of weeks ago was that the situation would work itself out. In other words, someone would conveniently wind up on the DL to make room for Victorino, thus keeping everyone with the big league club. Potentially a day away from a ruling, that doesn’t appear the case.

Hey, I’ve been wrong before.

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Spring training’s odd-man out, Jackie Bradley Jr., isn’t going anywhere. Yes, he’s been inconsistent at the plate in his first Major League stint of 2014, but he’s also been the Sox’ best defensive player in center. With the team struggling on defense, he’s simply too valuable a commodity and the organization holds its outfield defense in high regard.

Grady Sizemore is staying as well, for a number of reasons not limited to his ability to bat leadoff, his more than capable defense, and the flashes he’s shown of his old All-Star self.

Jonny Gomes is righthanded in a group filled with lefties, not to mention the intangibles, and Mike Carp is a dependable bat off the bench with an ability to play multiple positions, plus the only move for Boston there would be to designate him for assignment. Surely he’d land with another franchise. Not good for a Sox club already lacking in offensively depth. Both are safe.

That leaves Daniel Nava, who is struggling mightily at the plate with a .149 average (10-for-67, with 17 strikeouts) and an uncharacteristically low six walks after ranking among baseball’s best in average in 2013, his play has been ugly in the field, and he just so happens to have minor league options remaining.

Shipping the self-made Nava to Pawtucket to rediscover his groove would keep him on the 40-man roster, readily available in the event any of his aforementioned teammates were hurt.

It’s not to say sending Nava down is necessarily the right choice in a complicated situation, but it is the only choice – unless that phantom injury should arise.

That decision may have been indicated on Tuesday with Farrell’s preference to leave the switch-hitter out of the lineup against Yankees righty Masahiro Tanaka for Gomes who, again, is a righty. Dating back to last season, that’s typically been Nava’s spot in the lineup. It should be noted Tanaka entered the start having held lefthanders to a .133 average in 45 at-bats.

Perhaps, though unlikely, it’s just that simple.

Victorino’s reemergence from a hamstring injury will unfortunately hamstring Nava’s progress in Boston. You might say his offensive failures in what was expected to be his second full big league season were his undoing, or maybe it was just that his circumstances presented the cleanest solution. However, he'd certainly remain if he were hitting.

Whichever the case, for the time-being, Nava appears on the outs – after making an awful lot of them this year.

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