As the Red Sox were preparing to leave Toronto Sunday night, manager John Farrell had bench coach Torey Lovullo tell Daniel Nava that he would be starting in left field for the home opener Monday.
Nava was a little surprised, as he knew the Baltimore Orioles would be starting lefthander Wei-Yin Chen. Nava is a switch hitter but has been much better against righthanded pitchers in his career.
“Of course it gave me confidence,” Nava said. “John and Torey have done a great job of communicating with us about whether we’re playing the following day. The opportunity to mentally prepare is huge.”
Asked how much difference that can make, Nava smiled.
“I had a lot of confidence knowing my manager had my back,” he said. “You saw what happened in the game.”
With the afternoon shadows falling on Fenway Park, Nava came to the plate in the seventh inning with the chance to reward Farrell’s faith in him. The Red Sox, stifled all day by Chen, had runners at second and third base and one out in a scoreless game.
Nava drove an inside fastball so far out of the old ballpark that it crossed Lansdowne Street. The shot gave the Red Sox a 3-1 victory before a sellout crowd of 37,008.
Prior to the game, Farrell said he wanted Nava in the lineup instead of rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. because he has seen improvement in Nava's plate approach batting righthanded.
“He puts up a consistent at-bat. Numbers bear it out that he’s had more success lefthanded. But I think just in general he’s been a confident offensive player,” the manager said.
It was the right button to push. Nava walked, singled and hit a home run that will long be remembered. Nava homered and drove in two runs on Sunday.
“It’s been an amazing couple of days,” said Nava, who until this season had never been on an Opening Day roster. “Just to get this chance with this team means a lot to me. When you’re here for the home opener and everything that goes on, that’s pretty special.”
Nava has the humility you would expect from a player who was once cut from his college team and became an equipment manager. But as he watched the ball fly, he flipped his bat just a little and pumped his fist as the crowd roared.