SALT LAKE CITY — Entering the season, Efren Navarro was known solely as a defensive extraordinaire — and rightfully so. The Bees' first baseman is the best fielding first baseman in all of Triple-A.
He leads all Triple-A first basemen in fielding percentage (.998) and putouts (1,205), and he racked up more than 800 putouts before he made his first error of the season. He now has three errors in 126 games — two fielding and one throwing.
Navarro anchors a Salt Lake defense that leads the PCL in fielding percentage, giving the Bees pitching staff an extra boost in a hitter-friendly environment.
"As a pitcher, having a great defense behind you is huge," Salt Lake pitcher Bear Bay said. "The guys have been really good all year, and they always seem to come through when we get into a little bit of trouble."
Lately, though, a different aspect of Navarro's game has been turning heads.
He has gone 13-for-24 with two home runs and six RBIs in his last five games, and he has 12 RBIs over his last 10 games. After hitting exactly zero home runs the first three months of the season, Navarro has belted 10 since the calendar flipped to July.
Navarro hit two home runs in a game for the first time in his life last week against Iowa, then followed that up with a 3-for-5, four-RBI performance in Salt Lake's 23-11 win over Colorado Springs Tuesday night.
Even Wednesday, when the Bees lost 10-1 to the 51s, Navarro went 3-for-4 with a double down the left-field line and a triple to deep center.
"I've been working with (Salt Lake batting coach Jim Eppard) in the cages, trying to pull the ball more," Navarro said. "Usually my routine is to stay away and go up the middle, but lately that has changed. I'm trusting my hands more on the inside pitch, and I'm able to square the ball up better than before."
The former 50th-round draft pick (the Angels took him with the 1,450th selection in the 2007 draft) now sports a batting average of .311. He has 34 doubles and 66 RBIs, and he has added pop to a lineup that sits near the bottom of the PCL in home runs.
While he's not a marquee name amid the legions of minor-league prospects, Navarro is only 25 years old and expanding his game from stellar gloveman to all-around threat.
"He's been doing great," Salt Lake manager Keith Johnson said. "He's finishing strong. Obviously his defense has helped us tremendously throughout the year. It's good to see him driving the ball with some regularity. You never know what's going to happen at the end of the season. Everybody in a uniform is playing for something."
Salt Lake and Las Vegas will meet again tonight at 6:35 p.m. at Spring Mobile Ballpark. The Bees' final home game is on Sept. 1.
Raptors, Owlz win
OGDEN — The Raptors' offense came to life in the bottom of the sixth inning, bringing home seven runs to blow the Brewers out of the water, 10-4. Noel Cuevas had three RBIs and a triple for Ogden.
OREM 6, MISSOULA 3: At Orem, Trevor Hairgrove had four RBIs and a monster home-run to bring to guide the Owlz to the victory. Orem was able to score four runs in the second inning.