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September 13, 2013

Nava has become versatile, valuable for Sox

Daniel Nava’s incredible streak of 41 consecutive starts reaching base ended Sunday in New York.

Just how good a run was it?

Well, it was the second longest such streak in the American League this summer behind only Triple-Crown slugger Miguel Cabrera’s 44-gamer. It also was longest such streak by a Boston Red Sox hitter since on-base machine Kevin Youkilis’ 44-gamer in 2008.

“He’s always been a good hitter,” Red Sox first base coach Arnie Beyeler said about Nava, who he managed at Triple-A Pawtucket in 2011 and during parts of the 2012 season.

The biggest concern with Nava was whether his offensive numbers would tail off as this season progressed.

He had never before played more than 88 major league games in a season.

Nava has gotten better later in the summer. He is batting .361 in 24 games since Aug. 1.

He’s 12th among all major leaguers (first among switch-hitters) with a .388 on-base percentage.

Nava isn’t arbitration eligible until 2015 and is under the team’s control through the end of the 2017 season. He gives Boston flexibility going forward because Nava has played all three outfield positions and first base this season.

He’s most suited for left field and first base considering he’s not the best defensive outfielder.

In the offseason, the Sox will consider bringing back free-agent-to-be Mike Napoli to play first. The free agent market is slim with Seattle’s Kendrys Morales the top hitting first baseman.

Boston also will look to add another outfielder if Jacoby Ellsbury leaves via free agency.

If the Sox fail to sign either an outfielder or first baseman, it wouldn’t be as problematic considering they have Nava and Mike Carp.

It’s surprising how patient and successful a hitter Nava has developed into considering he struggled some in Triple-A just two years ago, beginning the season in a prolonged slump before a second-half surge increased his average to .268. That came after playing 60 games in 2010 with Boston where he batted .242 with a .351 OBP.

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