FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A year ago at this time, manager Terry Francona reminded his listeners Sunday morning, it didn’t occur to anyone to ask about Daniel Nava, an independent league alumnus whose name didn’t appear on anyone’s top prospects list.
“The fact that we’re talking about Daniel Nava today means he’s come so far,’’ Francona said.
But on a day when Nava was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket, it’s an open question whether he’ll get another chance to impact the Red Sox the way he did last June, when he hit a grand slam on the first pitch he saw in the big leagues.
That was the only home run Nava hit in 161 at-bats, as he batted .242 in 60 games and struggled defensively in the outfield. Cracking the Sox outfield again has become a much more formidable task, with the addition of Carl Crawford, Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury healthy, Darnell McDonald established as a backup, and with the Pawtucket outfield crowded with younger, hungry prospects: Ryan Kalish, Josh Reddick, Che-Hsuan Lin.
Nava hit .205 (8-for-39) with one extra-base hit here.
“He didn’t swing the bat real well this spring, which in the grand scheme of things means nothing,” Francona said of Nava, who has always hit in the minors (.337 overall). “I think he was fighting it all spring. He got a little length in his swing. He knows he needs to shorten it up.’’
Francona said Nava’s defense improved this spring. He made a leaping catch at the wall in Bradenton on Saturday and his throws were noticeably better than last season. Still, given his place on the Sox depth chart, his Red Sox experience may be defined by one shining moment.
“He just needs to go play and then whatever happens, happens,’’ Francona said. “Guys play themselves into the mix.’’
The Sox also optioned catcher Mark Wagner to Triple-A Pawtucket. Wagner had two different bones removed from his left hand in surgery last season, which short-circuited his season with the PawSox, and batted just .167 this spring in limited at-bats (3-for-18).
Boston’s evaluation of Wagner primarily focused on whether they could have confidence in him if they needed help at the position in the event that either Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Jason Varitek went down. In that regard, Francona sounded inclined to give him a passing grade.
“I think we’d have faith,” Francona said. “We told him the same thing we told everybody else: Go down and do your job and when there’s a need, make yourself be the guy. To be honest, we tell all the guys that.
"I think he’s pretty advanced, defensively. He has a pretty good aptitude for running the game.”
Pitcher Matt Fox was reassigned to minor-league camp.