Home run wraps up come­back

Cal­houn hits game win­ner in the eighth. Navarro, the lat­est left fielder, has an RBI.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Bill Shaikin


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.

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