WASHINGTON – Dioner Navarro expected to miss two or three weeks with his strained left hamstring. Instead, he needed six weeks to recover, a stretch that allowed him to be with his family when his father-in-law died unexpectedly, and keep him from getting caught in the Toronto Blue Jays roster logjam while Jose Bautista couldn’t play the outfield.
“Like I always repeat, everything happens for a reason,” Navarro said Tuesday shortly after his activation from the disabled list. “Jose wasn’t playing the field, he was DHing, Russell (Martin) is doing a great job behind the plate, so it probably would have been hard for me to get some at-bats, although I would have loved to be here with the team and try to help them do whatever I can do to win.”
During his absence he did precisely that by working hard to rehab his injury, and support his wife Sherley after her father Carlos Montez died of a heart attack in Puerto Rico. His presence at home – he lives in Tampa, not far from the club’s rehab facilities in Dunedin, Fla. – really helped in a difficult time.
“Yeah, man,” said Navarro. “I’ve been with my wife for 15 years, her dad was like my dad to me. I started dating my wife when I was 16 years old. I was by myself in the States with nobody and he kind of took me under his wing, he was a little tiny guy with big, big character and a big attitude. The journey we had was magnificent. It was really heartbreaking.”
Navarro also had a physical setback along the way which slowed his progress, but he’s all systems go now. He’s happy with his swing and his mobility, and eager to rejoin his teammates after being on the DL since April 22.
“I use my legs a lot when I bat, so I just wanted to be 100 per cent for my leg and I knew with my swing and my timing, it was just a matter of time,” said Navarro. “I went down to extended spring, took a whole lot of at-bats, and then in triple-A I played four games and I knew it was time. I’m here now.”
His activation, combined with Bautista’s return to right field, will give manager John Gibbons a lot more flexibility with his roster.
“That will clean up a lot,” Gibbons said. “Really, it would kind of go back to the way we started the season. I definitely think that will make us better.”
Navarro took Josh Thole’s spot on the roster, and he will also see action at DH and as a pinch-hitter for the Blue Jays. Gibbons may also ease the load on starting catcher Martin.
“We’ll stay away from day games after night games for Russ because it’s starting to get to that point of the season when you start wearing down a little bit,” said Gibbons. “At the beginning of the season it’s a little bit different. That will keep (Martin) a little stronger, too.
“Navarro is big part of our team. He’ll do some DHing too because we want to get his bat in there, pretty good hitter.”
Navarro praised Gibbons for finding him at-bats before his injury and he won’t be picky now.
“I just want to be helpful to the team, that’s the bottom line,” he said. “We’ve got to start winning games, whether it be on the bench rooting for my teammates or catching, DHing, pinch-hitting, whatever, I just want to help the team.”