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With his mother in stable condition in a Venezuelan hospital after a brain aneurysm, C Dioner Navarro rejoined the Rays on Monday and said his focus is definitely on the field.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published February 19, 2008
[James Borchuck | Times]
ST. PETERSBURG - With his mother in stable condition in a Venezuelan hospital after a brain aneurysm, C Dioner Navarro rejoined the Rays on Monday and said his focus is definitely on the field.
This is a pivotal season for Navarro, 24, who is coming off a strong 2007 second half and eager to prove he can be a frontline player, and he said the latest in a series of family medical crises won't deter him.
"All the stuff that happens to me, all it does is make me stronger," Navarro said. "It makes me realize I've got people around me that keep me strong."
Manager Joe Maddon said Navarro deserves the credit. "He's dealt with a lot of difficult diversity at an early age in regard to stuff that really matters, not about throwing out a baserunner but about family and life and death," Maddon said. "He's handled that extremely well. He doesn't make excuses. He speaks straight up about it. He understands, and we understand."
Navarro returned to Tampa from Venezuela around midnight Sunday and was at the clubhouse shortly after 8 a.m. Monday. He has been a regular at offseason workouts and has impressed team officials by being in what he says is "the best" shape of his career.
"I want to go out and prove I did a good job during the offseason," he said. "I feel great, I feel real excited. Hopefully I don't let anybody down."
Maddon doesn't expect to be, saying Navarro "wasn't ready to play" at the start of last season and "learned a lot of lessons."
THIRD OPTION: Veteran INF/OF Eric Hinske's ability to play third base could not only make him a more valuable candidate for a reserve job but also a viable option to start if top prospect Evan Longoria doesn't make the team.
Hinske, in camp on a minor-league deal, has played most of the past three seasons in the outfield and at first base but was Toronto's starting third baseman from 2002 (when he was AL rookie of the year) through 2004, and he said he is capable of doing so again.
"It's where I'm most comfortable and where I'd like to play, but I'm here to do whatever they want me to," said Hinske, who signed with the Rays over Arizona. "I can play first, third, right and left and DH. I'm comfortable playing all four, and I think it definitely gives them some versatility."
ARRIVALS INFO: With Hinske and INF Andy Cannizaro arriving, the only players who have not checked in before today's reporting date are OFs Carl Crawford, Jonny Gomes and Jon Weber, 1B Carlos Pena and INFs Willy Aybar, Joel Guzman and Elliot Johnson. ... Aybar and Guzman are expected to be delayed because of visa problems in the Dominican Republic. RHP Juan Salas already has been and, though Maddon said he "made it a step closer" to approval, was further delayed because the U.S. government offices were closed Monday in observance of Washington's Birthday.
MISCELLANY: Infield coach Tom Foley told Maddon he'd be "surprised in a good way" with Akinori Iwamura's progress in the move from third base to second. ... Pitchers will get an extra day off between bullpen sessions, meaning none will throw Wednesday so position players can take their first batting practice off the coaches. ... MLB VP Bob Watson met with team officials to discuss rules and other initiatives such as reducing time of games.
[Last modified February 18, 2008, 23:37:31]