Glove, grit buoy ex-Rebel Navarro


As a 50th-round draft pick, former UNLV standout Efren Navarro overcame long odds to make it to the majors last season with the Angels.

"It just shows it doesn't matter what round you go in. As long as you have a jersey and you play hard, you never know what can happen," said Navarro, who was drafted by Los Angeles in 2007. "There were a lot of struggles, a lot of ups and downs throughout the minor leagues, and finally getting that moment to go up there and play in the big leagues, it's pretty exciting, and it left me hungry for more."

Navarro went 2-for-10 with a double in eight games for the Angels in September after completing a solid season for Salt Lake, batting .317 with 12 homers and 73 RBIs.

The first baseman made three errors in 1,357 chances for a .998 fielding percentage en route to earning Angels Minor League Defensive Player of the Year honors and a Rawlings Gold Glove Award.

Despite his defensive prowess, Navarro's prospects in Los Angeles took a major hit when the Angels signed Albert Pujols to a $240 million, 10-year deal in December and then removed Navarro from their 40-man roster.

While he already was stuck behind Los Angeles first basemen Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales, Navarro won't necessarily be stuck in the minors for long.

After this season, the 25-year-old will become a six-year minor league free agent.

"Whether it's with us, through a trade, free agency or what have you, if someone gives him an opportunity to play in the big leagues, he's ready for it," Bees manager Keith Johnson said. "In the right situation with the right ballclub, I think he can play every day in the big leagues."

The easygoing Navarro appeared unconcerned about his future - and unaware of his impending free agency - Friday before going 0-for-4 in an 11-3 loss to the 51s (13-16) at Cashman Field.

"You have to live in the moment," he said. "The way I see it, you can only live in the present because the present leads to the future. Every day I go out there and perform, you never know who's watching. I could be part of a trade, you just never know.

"But it's not going to affect me on the field."

Navarro was focused on the present in spring training, when he tried to learn as much as he could from Pujols.

"He was there, so why not pick his brain?" Navarro said. "My goal is one day, hopefully, God willing, I'll be able to accomplish some stuff he has - and that's winning a Gold Glove in the big leagues.

"I picked his brain, and we had a good time. He was encouraging and motivating. I figured he would do his own thing, but he enjoyed working with the younger guys, so that was pretty cool."

Like Pujols, Navarro has yet to hit a homer this season and is struggling at the plate, batting .252 (26-for-103).

"I'm off to a slow start, but I have faith, and I know I'm going to come through," he said. "I feel like if I make a good defensive play, it's going to lead to a good at-bat."

If that's the case, Navarro should have plenty of good at-bats. He has made one error in 283 chances this season and 33 in 5,584 in his career.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia has said Navarro is capable of winning a Gold Glove in the majors, and Johnson agrees.

"Without a doubt," he said. "He plays first base like a shortstop. He has great instincts and a great feel for the game."

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354.

 

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