Navarro faces another emergency with family

By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
Published February 16, 2008

ST. PETERSBURG - Catcher Dioner Navarro is hoping to report to spring training Monday after dealing with another family medical emergency: His mother is hospitalized in Venezuela after suffering a brain aneurysm.

Rosa Navarro was stricken Feb. 8, and Navarro has been in Caracas for the last week, agent Kendall Almerico said, with plans to fly to Tampa on Sunday if she improves.

"It was pretty significant, and she has not recovered as quickly as the doctors would like," Almerico said. "She's stable, but she's not out of intensive care yet, and he's kind of waiting for that."

The aneurysm was eerily similar, Almerico said, to what happened in September 2003 to Navarro's wife, Sherley, who collapsed in Tampa and nearly died during surgery.

In addition, their son, Dioner Jr., was born with a condition that required surgery to remove a kidney and follow-up procedures to address complications with his remaining kidney and urethra.

The family was also involved in a July 2006 car accident.

"I absolutely marvel at him," Almerico said. "He's gone through more in his 24 years than anyone goes through in a lifetime."

The Rays have told Navarro to take as much time as needed, manager Joe Maddon said.

"We told him specifically don't come back until you're satisfied your mom's okay," Maddon said. "Navi's had a great offseason, he's working his butt off, he's in great shape so I'm not concerned. I'm just more concerned about his mom and how his family's doing.

"It's just unfortunate the kind of stressful situations this young man's run into. It's unbelievable."

ANOTHER ABSENCE: Reliever Juan Salas was also missing, detained by the now-almost-standard "visa problems" leaving the Dominican Republic. But Salas' case could be complicated by his suspension last season for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. "Definitely contributing," Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said.

SIGNINGS: The Rays agreed to terms on one-year deals with nine of their pre-arbitration (zero to three years of service) players, including RHPs Matt Garza and Edwin Jackson and Navarro, all of whom got between $400,000 and $415,000. The others, who got at or near the $390,000 minimum, were Salas, LHP Kurt Birkins, RHPs Calvin Medlock and Mitch Talbot, OFs Fernando Perez and Justin Ruggiano. There are 15 unsigned, including CF B.J. Upton, and the Rays can unilaterally renew their contracts March 1.