BOSTON -- With Jacoby Ellsbury entering a contract year, Cody Ross gone to Arizona, Jackie Bradley Jr. waiting in the wings, Daniel Nava biding his time and imports Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes looking to fit in, the Red Sox's outfield situation was very much up in the air this spring.
As April winds to an end, Nava is looking like a star in right field, a position he has rarely played at the major-league level, and Mike Carp, an addition made early in spring training to provide depth, is holding down left field while helping to carry a potent lineup.
Just like the Sox drew it up.
The two unlikely standouts were the forces behind a 6-1 spanking of the Houston Astros on Sunday.
Carp had an RBI double, a single and a walk while Nava went 2-for-4, scored three times and did his best Dwight Evans (or was it Tom Brunansky?) impression during a busy afternoon in right.
Seven of Carp’s 10 hits (in just 22 at-bats) have gone for extra bases. Nava’s effort pushed his average to .310.
“What’s been most impressive is their ability to stay inside the ball and drive it to left field. Both guys have done it, both guys have used the whole field with their overall approach,” manager John Farrell said. “Mike Carp has given us a very nice lift in the role that he’s been in. And then when you consider the two plays that Nava made in right field today, one the over-the-shoulder catch and the diving catch to end the ballgame, both guys have contributed a lot.”
Nava played just twice in right field in 2012. He showed considerable improvement defensively in left as the season wore on, a factor that indicated he would be in the mix to get playing time in front of the Green Monster this season. When Victorino’s back became an issue, Nava made the transition from the tiny garden in left to the vast pasture in right, a move that he has made swimmingly.
“It’s different,” he said of playing in right. “You go from probably one of the shortest distances you have to cover in left to probably one of the largest in right and that distance difference alone makes it challenging. I like it, but it’s taken awhile to adjust to the vastness of the area.”
One would think that the adjustment is complete based on the two highlight-reel grabs in this one. The first, a Willie Mays-esque grab on the warning track, saved a run and ended the second inning. The second, on a curling liner ticketed for the corner, saw Nava cover a ton of ground before a full layout and catch inches above the grass.
“He made a heck of a play,” Farrell said. “Off the bat you think it might be another ball in the corner but he’s done an outstanding job defensively.”
And at the plate. And on the bases. Batting second. Batting fifth. Batting sixth. Playing first base. Serving as the designated hitter.
Nava has excelled in just about any role, and Carp has pulled alongside him as the pair form an unexpected corner outfield tandem that has served as a catalyst in recent days.