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Versatile Nava turns in four-hit night vs. rivals

BOSTON -- Whether it is his still underrated offense or his vastly improved defense, Daniel Nava's importance to the Red Sox has taken on many facets.

The bat took center stage in Sunday night's 9-2 walloping of the Yankees, as Nava put together a 4-for-5 night.

"I'm trying to relax as much as I can," Nava said. "For me, I know my game and my game is more relaxed -- my head stays stiller, less movement and hopefully that allows me to make more solid contact."

Nava thrived in the No. 2 spot in the batting order Sunday and held down right field on a night Shane Victorino got the night off.

Usually, Nava starts in left and hits in the middle portion of the batting order. But his versatility -- be it in the field or in the batting order -- has made Nava a key member of the 2013 Red Sox.

"I don't know that it can be overstated," said manager John Farrell. "I was just having a conversation with a couple of guys in the batting cage during early work, and we have a number of guys that have that versatility. It gives us a chance to get some guys off their feet."

Nava learned how to play first base on the fly during Spring Training, and he has become pretty adept at it. So much so that Farrell likens Nava to the equivalent of two players who occupies just one roster spot.

"We can match up inside a game and move him from the outfield to first base," said Farrell. "It opens things up. It doesn't keep us pinned in to strict defensive spots with every player. He can play corner outfield, first base, DH, and at the same time, by OPS, he's the 11th-most productive outfielder in the whole game. He's having a heck of a year."

Put Nava's numbers in a vacuum (.306 average, 11 homers, 63 RBIs, .392 OBP, .844 OPS) and they'd be solid.

But when you consider where he has come from, it makes his work seem even more substantial. The Red Sox, if you remember, pried Nava away from independent league baseball for $1 back in January 2008.

Nava was originally an equipment manager in college before transferring to a junior college so he could play.

"I'm sure all players who know what his story is will look to that [for inspiration]," Farrell said. "But I think it's also important for us that we can never fully measure what's inside a given player and their willingness to work and overcome some of those shortcomings. That's why you never give up on a guy that shows you some talent. And if they are given enough opportunity and time, they can overcome some things."

Ian Browne is a reporter for Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. Jason Mastrodonato is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @jmastrodonato.
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