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Nava has versatility to hit all over lineup

Nava has versatility to hit all over lineup

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox aren't locked into any lineup choices, and this is the time of Spring Training where the manager can put everything on the table. Boston manager John Farrell spoke about Daniel Nava on Friday, saying that the veteran could fit at the top or in the middle of the lineup.

With Jacoby Ellsbury gone via free agency, the Red Sox have a glaring hole at the top of the order. And while Shane Victorino would seem like the obvious candidate, the Red Sox liked the way he fit in the No. 2 slot last season, which could possibly open the door for Nava in the top slot.

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"He's a good hitter," Farrell said. "The more times we can get our good hitters to the plate, that probably enhances our chances. He's going to find himself in the lineup regularly."

Farrell is still weighing his lineup options, but Nava up top would represent a different path for the outfielder. Nava, 31, started just eight games in the leadoff spot last season and he's started just 35 games there in his three-year career. Nava is a career .252 hitter at the top of the lineup.

Nava homered to lead off Wednesday's game against St. Louis, and his power could entice the Red Sox to bat him in the middle of the order. Nava is a career .333 hitter (31-for-93) when he bats fifth and a .321 hitter (71-for-221) when he bats sixth, presenting Farrell with a lot of things to think about.

"The one thing that you like about Daniel's abilities in that five- or six-hole is he really lengthens out the lineup," Farrell said. "He's going to put [forth] a very tough at-bat, and probably in a key spot. You'd think the guys ahead of him are going to be on base, just by their track record. As an RBI type of bat with that type of consistency, those opportunities are going to be there for him."

Ellsbury led off for the Red Sox 134 times last season, and Victorino batted in the top spot eight times. Nava, meanwhile, had a start in every batting slot except the cleanup spot and the No. 9 spot in the order, and he said that he doesn't really have a preference where he hits in the lineup.

"Leadoff. Five. Six. Two. Wherever. I don't really care, as long as I'm on that lineup card. That's all I care about," said Nava. "I have been at the top of the lineup before, so it wouldn't be something completely foreign. It doesn't really matter to me as far as my approach or anything, because my approach is usually a patient approach. And as a leadoff hitter, that's more or less what you want."

Wherever he hits, Farrell is confident of one thing: Nava will give the team every possible ounce of effort. Nava has already conquered the odds after signing with the Red Sox as an undrafted free agent in 2008, and Farrell said that he's come a long way in his brief taste of life in the Majors.

"I think he's made himself a better player all the way around. I wouldn't say just offensively," he said. "We feel like early in Spring Training, he's run the bases with a little more confidence. As we've seen, any challenge that we've given Daniel, he's responded through hard work and he's improved."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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