Efren Navarro won’t hit a lot of baseballs over the fence.
But he’ll hit more than a few to shallow center, or shallow right or left. He’ll knock hits into the corners, where outfielders will scramble to keep him from getting extra bases.
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That might be his greatest strength: Opposing teams are never sure where the Bees first baseman will hit next.
"It means a lot, because I’ve put in a lot of work in the offseason," he said. "It’s something that I’ve worked for, and it’s a blessing."
He’s not Salt Lake’s most potent home run threat, but Navarro is now the club’s most consistent batter, spraying hits all over the diamond at a .361 clip. The 27-year-old locked down the clean-up spot in the lineup this year, and — combined with his steady glove — it’s made him a Triple-A all-star this season.
On Friday night, in the Bees’ 7-5 loss, Navarro quietly added a pair of singles and batted in a run. It was his 13th straight game with a hit and his 10th multi-hit game in his last 11 contests.
Although Navarro may never hit 30 home runs in a season, his other numbers (.443 OBP, 55 RBIs, 25 doubles, 45 walks, .953 OPS) bear the mark of a big leaguer. Now he’s just waiting for a chance.
"I really want to knock down the door," he said. "I really want to play in the big leagues — that’s the ultimate goal. I want to show the teams, and I want to show myself, that I’m ready."
His manager won’t argue. Keith Johnson recognized Navarro’s hitting ability long ago and has encouraged him for years to embrace what comes naturally. That means doubles instead of dingers, and singles instead of strikeouts.
It’s taken some time for that confidence to come around at the Triple-A level.
"For whatever reason, he’s always had that little voice in his head that has been saying, ‘Power, power, power,’ " Johnson said. "There’s been stretches in past years where he’s gotten out of his swing and the hits have stopped coming."
Not the case lately: For the season, he’s a top-five PCL hitter in average, hits, doubles, on-base percentage and walks. While he’s not single-handedly carrying the Bees, he’s been a major force for the team, which has crept up to second place in the division.
As much as Navarro hopes his next chance in the majors comes in an Angels uniform, it could be more realistic that he gets a fresh start elsewhere. And if that’s the case, he’s ready to embrace whatever the future holds.
"Hopefully next year, a team will give me a chance to vie for a spot," he said. "But until then, I’m just going to try to wake up every day and treat it like new. I don’t worry about my average going up or down, I just try to start out every day 0 for 0."
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