Oswaldo Navarro: Improvement the Name of the Game

APPLETON, Wisc. - The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have provided fans with exciting play all season. In fact, the defensive work in the infield alone would fill endless reels of highlights. The majority of these big plays have come from one of the smallest guys on the team, Oswaldo Navarro, who at 6-feet, 150-pounds, is regarded by many as the top defensive infielder in the Mariners' farm system.

Because of Navarro's immense talent, the coaching staff will not let him slip. They know just what he can do and what they can expect from him.

"I expect him to make the tough plays look easy and make all the routine plays look routine," said manager Scott Steinmann.

Navarro is no stranger to the fans sitting in Fox Cities Stadium. He is making is second appearance with the club. Navarro joined the Rattlers in 2004, but was sent back to Everett once the AquaSox season started.

The extra work with the AquaSox helped out. After returning to Everett he hit .273, led the league with 27 doubles and was fourth in the league with 17 stolen bases. The switch-hitting speedster also was named to the Northwest League All-Star Game in 2004.

Despite being a human highlight reel in the middle of the infield, Navarro has made his share of errors. He often seems to try too hard to make the big plays. As of June 11, the Venezuelan infielder has committed 14 errors. Although the stat sounds high, Navarro's errors are not an everyday occurrence, but tend to come in bunches. This points toward an occasional mental lapse rather than a lack in ability.

"He's got 14 errors right now, but a few of them were mentally getting a little lazy," said Steinmann. "And that's part of being a minor league player, learning how to be mentally tough every pitch."

The Rattlers have a good problem on their hands, which is trying to provide enough playing time for a very talented team. And that problem is very noticeable with the infield. Through injuries and his versatility, Navarro has found ways to stay in the lineup.

"I feel comfortable putting him anywhere," said Steinmann. "And that gives me a lot of flexibility and him the chance to see the game from different positions."

While Navarro has been amazing with his glove; his bat has been his Achilles Heel.

"He is one of the best defensive infielders, but the question mark has been the bat," said Rattlers hitting coach Tommy Cruz.

In his first stint with the Rattlers in 2004, Navarro hit a sparse .211, but his hitting improved to.274 when he returned to Everett. Navarro has taken his hitting very seriously in the past year, and the work has paid off.

"He's hitting way over what I thought he was going to do," said Steinmann. "I thought he was going to be a decent hitter for us, but he's done a great job."

As of June 11, Navarro is hitting .267 with a .357 on-base percentage and six stolen bases. He has worked on his base stealing and bunting skills, which have helped him become a menace to opposing pitchers.

"He tries to do everything he can to get on base," said Cruz. "I think if he gets on base we're going to have a chance to score runs, because he's such a good base-stealer."

Navarro has shown great improvement over the past season. At this time last year he was struggling so much offensively that a demotion to Everett was in order. This year, he is wowing fans with his defensive play and making great strides at the plate. If he keeps improving at this pace, who knows where he will be next season.

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