PHILADELPHIA -- Daniel Nava is no longer a fringe player, just trying to prove he belongs in the Major Leagues.
Anyone who has watched the Red Sox consistently this season can tell you that Nava has been one of the team's most dependable players.
He batted second on Thursday while starting in right field. Nava has started 43 of Boston's first 54 games, hitting .288 with seven homers, 33 RBIs and an .867 OPS.
Manager John Farrell first saw Nava play in 2010, when he was Boston's pitching coach. That was the season Nava -- a complete unknown at the time -- was called up to the Majors and hit a grand slam on his first pitch in the Major Leagues.
"Almost like a different player [now] -- one who's a better defender," said Farrell. "More than anything, over time, he's probably gained some confidence that he belongs here and is a very good Major League hitter -- not just because he sees pitches or works the count, but he's picked counts in certain areas that he can drive the ball.
"He's become a much better Major League right-handed hitter than he was in the past. To his credit, he's worked his tail off to be the player he is today."
Did Farrell expect Nava would be this much of a contributor?
"I don't want to slight him, but I've got to be honest with you -- no," Farrell said. "One, he's come on so much defensively -- and we saw it across the field last year, but as Spring Training started to unfold and we had some injury situations we were dealing with, he just kept coming along, kept coming along."
The perception of Nava started to change, according to Farrell, when the switch-hitter belted a game-winning three-run homer against Orioles lefty Wei-Yin Chen on April 8. Before that, the perception of Nava was that he wasn't much of a threat from the right side.
All of a sudden, it makes you open up your eyes and say, 'You know what? Maybe we don't need to just look at him as a one-sided guy.' He's had a lot of good at-bats from the right-handed side of the plate as well," Farrell said.
Buchholz healthy, will start Sunday night in Bronx
PHILADELPHIA -- Clay Buchholz is healthy and ready to return to the rotation on Sunday night when the Red Sox complete a three-game series at Yankee Stadium.
It turns out that the right AC joint that Buchholz injured while sleeping in an awkward position was nothing more than a little nuisance that took a few days to heal up.
He wound up missing one turn in the rotation.
"The place I originally felt the stiffness, it's pretty much gone," said Buchholz. "It's just the soreness from, like I said [Wednesday], from messing around and pulling and tugging with the muscles [in the training room], but no, it just feels muscular. In the bullpen, I threw pretty much max effort. The ball came out of my hand a lot better there too."
Buchholz will follow Jon Lester and Felix Doubront in the three-game rivalry showdown with the Yankees.
"It's still early, but it's always fun pitching in a series like that -- particularly in that ballpark," said Buchholz. "It's a tough place to pitch sometimes, but when you can go out there and win two out of three games, it definitely gives your team a boost."
The right-hander is just relieved he didn't need to miss any extended time, considering he is in one of the best pitching stretches of his life -- opening the season 7-0 with a 1.73 ERA.
"That's the part that stinks about it, going out there and you feel good about everything you're doing and then you hit a little bump in the road," Buchholz said. "I feel pretty confident. I haven't lost the touch of any pitches and if I have, I have some days to tinker with it and have the ball feel comfortable in my hand.
"I'm ready to get back out there. It's hard sitting around watching your team battling and trying to win games and not being a part of it. As far as how I feel, I feel like I'll be ready to go."
Papi breaks out mitt for first time in '13
PHILADELPHIA -- While the media stood at David Ortiz's locker to ask him about playing first base for the first time this season Thursday, a baseball show was on the clubhouse television talking about the same subject.
Ortiz gleefully looked at highlights of himself making plays at first and bellowed, "Right there. Talk to that. Look at the hands!"
In truth, Ortiz is highly deferential on those rare nights he breaks out his glove.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia joked to Ortiz that he would take anything in the air or on the ground that was hit anywhere in the vicinity of both players.
"I mean, I don't want to be in the way of Pedroia, or anything like that," said Ortiz. "So we talk about things and we make sure that there's some things that we need to talk about before it happens and when it happens, so everybody's in the right place. I tell Pedroia that everything that he can catch, 'Go and get it.'"
In truth, Ortiz has held his own at first when the Red Sox have called on him. Most memorable was the throw he made across the diamond to nail the Cardinals' Jeff Suppan at third base in the 2004 World Series. Ortiz also made a nifty scoop in the clinching Game 4 of the 2007 Fall Classic at Denver.
The fact Red Sox manager John Farrell has no reservations about putting Ortiz in the field is a good sign of how the slugger is feeling physically.
"I've got to give credit tp the baseball activities, the doctors and the trainers," Ortiz said. "They've been working on me every day."
Following Thursday's game, Ortiz can put his glove back in a storage box until Aug. 19-25, when the Sox play a pair of three-game series against the Giants in San Francisco and the Dodgers in Los Angeles.