Home run wraps up comeback
Calhoun hits game winner in the eighth. Navarro, the latest left fielder, has an RBI.
ANGELS 5 OAKLAND 4
The Angels had been gone for a week. They landed in Southern California on Friday, three hours before sunrise, and Efren Navarro went home.
He slept a few hours, got up and had lunch with his mother. The commute was not a problem, since he lives with his mother in Lynwood, where he grew up. His building has three units; his sisters occupy the other two.
Navarro holds his family close all the time, but never more so than this year. His father died in February, four days before he left for spring training, but Navarro still
feels his presence.
“It’s amazing,” Navarro said. “I still see signs. I do things and he reminds me, like, ‘Get your rest.’ ”
Navarro learned how to play baseball from his father. If he were still alive, he would be delighted and bemused that his son is the Angels’ latest left fielder.
“I never would have thought I would be playing outfield in the big leagues,” Navarro said.
Navarro singled home the Angels’ first run on Friday, in the Angels’ dramatic 5-4 victory over the Athletics.
Mike Trout hit the gametying home run in the eighth inning, and Kole Calhoun followed two batters later with the game-winning homer. For the first time in 28 tries this season, the Angels won a game in which they trailed after seven innings.
The Angels need a left fielder who can hit, and Navarro is the latest man to audition for the role. No position in the field has been more unstable.
In center field, Trout has started all but two games. In right field, Calhoun has started all but four.
In left field? Josh Hamilton was exiled. Matt Joyce is under .200. Collin Cowgill is injured, and under .200 as well. Kirk Nieuwenhuis was cut after 10 games. Alfredo Marte was cut after two games.
The Angels’ left fielders are batting .198, with four home runs in 61 games. They are so desperate for production that Manager Mike Scioscia said they might try rookie Kyle Kubitza there.
Kubitza is the third baseman promoted from triple-A to replace the injured David Freese. But Freese is expected to rejoin the Angels’ lineup Saturday, and Kubitza might hit. In his 422 minor league games, Kubitza played left field twice.
On Friday, Navarro started his second consecutive game in left field. His single in the second inning Friday gave him hits in four at-bats.
“Any time a player gets an opportunity and performs well, you get more opportunities,” Scioscia said. “Hopefully, Efren will give us a little boost out there.
“It’s obviously a position we’re trying to fill.”
That Navarro was in the starting lineup Friday was particularly interesting. The Angels signed their firstround draft pick, Fresno State catcher Taylor Ward, for $1.67 million. Ward got a news conference, a pregame visit on the field, and the chance to watch the game from a suite.
Navarro got none of those things. He was a last-round pick in 2007, back when the draft had 50 rounds. He said he signed for $12,000.
The 50th round no longer exists. The draft now ends after 40 rounds.
“If you’re a first-rounder, that’s awesome. That’s every player’s dream. But, if you get drafted, you have an opportunity,” Navarro said.
“You still have to prove yourself, what they gave you and your draft stock. You have to prove to the organization you deserved to go firstround. If you were fifth round, same thing. You have to prove you can stick around and play with the best of ’em.”
Amazingly, Navarro has had the best career — for the Angels, that is — of all the players they drafted in 2007. They failed to sign their thirdround pick, a pitcher named Matt Harvey.