Monday, March 12, 2018


The toughest break among the 58 onetime Independent Baseball players in major league camps this spring probably belongs to veteran Daniel Nava since the very first day of spring training the gritty outfielder by way of Chico, CA of the Golden League had to shut it down and have back surgery.

He had signed with Pittsburgh, and was considered a likely fourth outfielder--possibly even part of a leftfield platoon--with his sixth major league team since the days when he barely made an Independent roster.

"Not what I was hoping for, but I've got to look at it from the positive perspective," he told after returning to the Pirates' camp in Bradenton, FL.  "The pain's gone, and it explains a lot of things that have happened the past couple years with my body.  Hopefully, I'm 35 years young rather than 35 years old."

Typical recovery time from similar surgery is said to be 10-12 weeks.  Nava hit .301 in 214 plate appearances with Philadelphia last year before going down with what was described as a lower back strain.

Less Than a Year to Majors

If anyone needs convincing of the talent in the Indy leagues, consider this fact:  Six of those in major league camps this month played non-affiliated baseball as recently as last season.  Numerous other former Independent players have worn a major league uniform for at least a day after getting the call from minor league camps.

The six who have been vying for major league jobs, with their current team and former Independent affiliation, are:  Pitchers Henderson Alvarez, Philadelphia (Long Island, Atlantic League);  Tyler Cloyd, Miami (Somerset, Atlantic); Kevin Lenik, Kansas City (Windy City, Frontier League); Tim Melville, Baltimore (Long Island) and James Needy, Miami (Sioux City, American Association) and catcher Shawn Zarraga, Los Angeles Dodgers (Cleburne, American Association).

They May Make It to Opening Day

One new face said to be in line to start the season in the Dodgers' bullpen is Can-Am League (Ottawa) product Wilmer Font.  He was Pitcher of the Year in the Pacific Coast League last year. 

Two versatile non-roster infielders are making strong bids for their first major league action.  The Can-Am (New Jersey) provided Peter Mooney for Miami and the Chicago Cubs are looking at Ryan Court (Sioux City).  Both have been in virtually every spring training game their team has played while hitting above .300.  

"Playing for your hometown team and getting that dream to play in Wrigley (Field), it's an honor to put on the Cubs uniform every day," Court told The Northwest Herald.  "It keeps me going.  I come to the ballpark with a smile every day."

Court makes it clear his time in Sioux City (2015) also was great for him.  "I had a lot of fun playing Indy ball," he told the newspaper, "and I think it's because a lot of guys are in the same situation.  "They've been out of pro (affiliated) ball, trying to fight to get back, so everyone was pulling for each other.  Indy ball was great, and now being with these guys, that seems like it's the Cubs culture, to pull for your team.  The motto this year is 'everybody in'.  It couldn't be more true with this group."

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