Daniel Nava impressing Phillies with 'professional at-bats' in spring training

Daniel Nava impressing Phillies with 'professional at-bats' in spring training

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The first time Pete Mackanin saw Daniel Nava, it was in his first major league at-bat with the Boston Red Sox in 2010. Nava, on the first pitch he saw, hit a grand slam off Phillies starting pitcher Joe Blanton.

Mackanin said he's liked Nava ever since that day, and it was one of the reasons the Phillies signed him to a minor-league contract in December.

Now that the Phillies manager has gotten a closer look at Nava this spring he has an even greater appreciation for what the 34-year-old outfielder can bring to the team.

"One of the things we talked about over the winter was getting someone that can give us professional at-bats, and he certainly looks like he controls the strike zone," Mackanin said. "He doesn't get himself out, he gives you quality at-bats every time he goes up to the plate."

Nava went 4 for 4 with a triple and run scored against his former team on Sunday. He's hitting 10 of 21 (.476) this spring.

"Obviously, spring training, you take it with a grain of salt but 4 for 4 is also better than 0 for 4," Nava said. "I wasn't trying to do too much and the [ball] just fell where they weren't standing."

It's safe to say Nava took the road less traveled to get to his eighth year of service in the major leagues. He tried out for the baseball team at Santa Clara University and was cut, so he became the team equipment manager. After two years Nava left Santa Clara to play junior college baseball at the College of San Mateo (Calif.). He was named a Junior College All-American and was given a scholarship to return to Santa Clara.

Professionally, he bounced around in Independent Leagues and even took a year off before going back to the Indies, where the Red Sox purchased his contract from the Chico Outlaws for $1. Nava made it through big-league camp (the Red Sox paid Chico $1,499 to keep him after spring) and began working his way through the system until that grand slam against Blanton.

"You know, I've had a lot of doors open in my favor," Nava said. "The Red Sox gave me a shot when no one else did and I'll always be grateful for that. Fortunately, I was able to play well enough to get a chance to play for a World Series, something I'll never forget."

Nava's best season in the majors was in 2013 with the Red Sox. He played in 134 games and had a slash line of .303/.385/.445 with 12 home runs and 66 RBIs -- all career highs. His numbers have gone down considerably since then but he still has the desire to prove he belongs in the league.

This season with the Phillies, he will be asked to give quality at-bats and be a veteran influence on a talented young roster that is learning how to compete and fight for wins.

Nava is just happy to have the chance for days like Sunday to happen.

"It's a good reminder just to not take it for granted that you have an opportunity [to compete]," Nava said. "I know for a fact that that opportunity isn't always there."

MLB Notes: Nationals ace Max Scherzer scratched with sore neck

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USA Today Images

MLB Notes: Nationals ace Max Scherzer scratched with sore neck

SAN DIEGO -- Max Scherzer was scratched from his scheduled start Friday night due to a sore neck and the Washington Nationals turned to left-hander Matt Grace to face the San Diego Padres.

Manager Dusty Baker announced the move about two hours before first pitch.

Scherzer was coming off a 10-strikeout performance against San Francisco.

Grace is 1-0 with a 4.46 ERA. He grew up in the Los Angeles area and played at UCLA.

Scherzer is 12-5 with a 2.25 ERA this season.

Cubs: Lester placed on 10-day DL
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs got an encouraging report on Jon Lester before placing the ace left-hander on the 10-day disabled list on Friday.

Lester was examined by team physician Dr. Stephen Gryzlo after he left Chicago's 13-10 loss to Cincinnati on Thursday in the second inning. He was diagnosed with tightness in his left lat and general shoulder fatigue, but his shoulder and side were deemed structurally sound.

"I think the big thing is just the overall performance was not there," Lester said. "This is something that we tried to manage and get through. It just got to a point where you're doing a disservice to your team by going out there and not being able to perform.

"You feel like you can't help (going on the DL), but at the same time I wasn't helping out there. Let's get this thing right and get back to being myself" (see full story).

Dodgers: Gonzalez activated from DL
DETROIT -- The Los Angeles Dodgers have activated first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the disabled list, and he's set to start Friday night against Detroit.

The 35-year-old Gonzalez has missed over two months because of a herniated lumbar disk. He last played for the Dodgers on June 11.

Gonzalez went 6 for 31 with a home run and six RBIs during a nine-game rehab assignment with Class A Rancho Cucamonga and Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Tonight's lineup: Odubel Herrera out 4th straight game; DL stint coming?

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CSN

Tonight's lineup: Odubel Herrera out 4th straight game; DL stint coming?

Odubel Herrera to the disabled list is looking more and more likely.

Herrera, nursing a left hamstring injury, is out of the lineup Friday night for a fourth straight game as the Phillies play Game 2 of their four-game series against the Giants at AT&T Park.

Well before Friday's game, the centerfielder tested his hamstring on the field with an athletic trainer and walked off in not-so-promising fashion, according to CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury.

At this point, the Phillies are contemplating a DL stint for their hottest hitter.

"It's a day-to-day thing," manager Pete Mackanin said Thursday. "He might be going on the DL. We're thinking about it."

The team is awaiting word from its medical staff on that decision, Mackanin said.

Herrera has hit safely in 17 straight games, a stretch in which he's slashing .379/.431/.636 with three homers, two triples, four doubles and 10 RBIs.

Nick Williams will make his fourth straight start in center field. Cameron Perkins will get the nod in right field and hit eighth, while Jorge Alfaro is slotted behind the plate to catch Zach Eflin and bat seventh.

Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph are in the fifth and sixth spots, respectively. Both are struggling mightily. Franco is hitting .190 in August with one homer, 11 strikeouts and no walks, while Joseph is 5 for his last 52 (.096) with just one extra-base hit (a double) over that span.

Eflin opposes Giants left-hander Matt Moore. For more on the game, read Corey Seidman's game notes right here (see story).

Here are the lineups:

Phillies
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Nick Williams, CF
4. Rhys Hoskins, LF
5. Maikel Franco, 3B
6. Tommy Joseph, 1B
7. Jorge Alfaro, C
8. Cameron Perkins, RF
9. Zach Eflin, P

Giants
1. Denard Span, CF
2. Hunter Pence, RF
3. Jarrett Park, LF
4. Buster Posey, C
5. Pablo Sandoval, 3B
6. Brandon Crawford, SS
7. Ryder Jones, 1B
8. Kelby Tomlinson, 2B
9. Matt Moore, P