PCL baseball: Efren Navarro's approach pays off in Bees' win
With one out to go, the Tuscon Padres threatened to draw out Friday night's game out a little longer with a hot grounder toward first.
Not against Bees first baseman Efren Navarro. He narrowly snagged it, then tossed it back to first to get the final out in the 8-4 win for Salt Lake. It's the kind of play the Gold Glove-winning first baseman has become known for his business card, so to speak.
But it's the other part of his game the 26-year-old has honed in the last few years. Two doubles in his first two at-bats Friday spoke to his power at the plate, even if a few scouts would like to see him hit it over the fence more often.
"I've tried doing so many things," Navarro said. "Now it's not about trying. It's about going out there and having some fun, trusting my abilities and just trusting myself."
The lefty's performance on Friday, a 2-for-5 outing, is the kind of night Salt Lake (15-14) has come to expect. Navarro is nothing if not consistent a highly capable fielder and a .306 hitter in his years in Triple-A ball. On Friday, Navarro extended his hitting streak to 10 games.
But the protypical first baseman has power, and Navarro who had a career-high 12 homers in 2011 has never possessed that trait. The two players ahead of him in the majors, Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo, have power to spare.
It's frustrated him throughout his career, Navarro said. Selected in the 50th round of the draft, the Californian used to put a lot of pressure on himself to swing for the fences during his at-bats.
"It was always in my mind and in my thoughts, last couple years: 'I'm a first baseman, I have to hit home runs, I have to try to do all these things,' " Navarro said. "Now I have an idea of the ballparks, and myself as an athlete. I just feel like I'm letting it all loose and having fun."
This offseason, he went to the Dominican Republic for winter ball, and came back with an improved approach to knock hits to the opposite side of the field.
But the big part of it? Experience, and the confidence that comes with it.
"There's nothing in this league he hasn't seen," manager Keith Johnson said. "He knows most of the ballparks now, he's got a feel for the pitching staffs out there. With familiarity brings confidence, and he's playing with a lot of confidence right now."
Will that mean a true major-league job one day? It's hard to tell with the depth the Angels have at the position this season. His best shot might come with another team.
But that's in the back of Navarro's mind now. He's not worried about being a big-league first baseman, much less a home-run masher. He's focused on being himself.
"He can't try to recreate himself or be something he's not that hasn't worked for him," Johnson said. "He is who he is, and he's a darn good ballplayer."
O Bees first baseman Efren Navarro ups his hitting percentage to .330.
• Navarro has four homers and is hitting the best slugging percentage of his career (.500).