PHILADELPHIA — Lately, big league at-bats have not been the foregone conclusion that everyone thought they’d be for Dioner Navarro.
Since his days at Waterfront Park as one of the top prospects in the Yankees organization — Navarro was just 19 years old when he first joined the Thunder in 2003 and was promoted to Triple-A midway through the 2004 season — it’s been a mixed bag for the now 28-year-old.
Following the trade that sent him to the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to the 2005 season, the Venezuelan-born backstop has played in a big league All-Star Game, but also bounced around between three different organizations in the past three years after poor performance at the big league level.
Now, Navarro is getting another chance, albeit a brief one, in majors with the Cincinnati Reds, who called him up only because regular catcher Devin Mesoraco is serving a two-game suspension. Navarro has spent all but four games of his season with Triple-A Louisville and has performed well, with his.319 batting average serving as his best since his first year with Trenton.
But opportunities at the game’s highest level are now as limited as they’ve ever been for Navarro, who has played at least 48 major league games since 2005. Somehow, he’s able to remain positive about his season.
“It’s been great,” said Navarro from the visiting clubhouse in Philadelphia.
“Last year was a tough year for me, but I got an opportunity with the Reds. They offered me a minor league contract, and I took it. I took full advantage of it. I went down to Louisville and played my best, and now I’m here. Nobody knows what’s going to happen. I’m a really grateful guy, and I don’t complain about too much.”
There didn’t seem to be too many complaints when Navarro, who was blocked at the big league level by stalwart Jorge Posada, was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Randy Johnson as part of a three-team deal, one in which Navarro was flipped to the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of a package for Shawn Green.
Although the dream of permanently wearing pinstripes had been dashed, Navarro admits the trade was beneficial to him in the long run.
“It (affected my career) positively,” he said. “Everybody knew Posada was their guy, and I was probably going to be stuck at Triple-A for a few more years with the Yankees. I got traded, and I got an opportunity with the Dodgers. It’s been a great, great, great career for me so far. I’ve enjoyed it a lot.”
And so too, Navarro says, did he enjoy his time in the capital city. Well, at least when it got warmer outside, anyway…
“I was a guy coming from Venezuela, and I’d never experienced cold weather like that,” said Navarro through a smile.
“At the beginning of the season, it was cold, man. Being a prospect for the New York Yankees and climbing the ladder and things like that, it was good. It was a really great experience for me there.”
At the time, Navarro and Robinson Cano were the two big prospects to come through town, and both were progressing at similar rates through the organization. There was a lot of pressure on both, but Navarro was unfazed by it.
“I don’t think we had any pressure,” Navarro said. “Cano being my best friend still today, we kind of played together from rookie ball all the way to the big leagues. Like you say, it was a 1-2 punch that we had, me and Cano. I had a great time. Cano’s the type of person where he doesn’t care what kind of situation he’s in, he’s just going to go out there and be smiling and laughing the whole time he’s doing his job. That’s the way we saw him.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com