For fans of a franchise that makes a habit of re-signing former players clearly on the downside of their career, the addition of Xavier Nady to the roster to start 2014 was cause for skepticism.
However, less than a month later, Nady may have a chance to prove he has good baseball left to give, and some run production left in his bat.
Tom Lampkin at catcher, 10 years later. Mark Kotsay in the outfield, 10 years later. Mark Sweeney on the bench, THREE separate times in 10 years. And that is just the start of a nostalgic, though dubious list Nady is trying to stay away from.
After a sluggish start with five hitless at bats off the bench to start his season, Nady has shown a pulse over his last six games, picking up three hits, two HR and two RBI in 11 at bats. But now, the 35-year-old former 2nd round pick of the Padres in 2000, may get his biggest assist from the injury bug.
Through continued fall-out from injuries like that of Carlos Quentin and, most recently, Chase Headley’s day to day scratches, Manager Bud Black may be forced to use Nady as a regular outfielder. Providing just the regular work Nady may need to separate his bat from the pack on the rest of the bench.
As of this writing Nady had started in just two games, coming off the bench in nine more. Thursday, Nady is penciled into the cleanup spot for a second straight night, off a 1-for-4 performance that featured an extra base hit.
Even if he does indeed get his chance, what is Nady’s true up-side in his 12th MLB season?
Nady has not had more than three hundred at bats since 2010 with the Cubs. That season, in 119 games, he drove in 33, hit 6 home runs, and posted a .256/.306/.353 line. Contrast those MLB numbers with his .296/.360/.456 line with 15 home runs and 65 runs driven in over more than 440 at bats in AAA in 2013, and you see the contrast that has followed Nady throughout his professional career.
Off the bench, or in the starting line-up, either way, Nady has to seize his opportunity, or he is in danger of becoming another punch line for Padres fans lamenting their organization’s perceived fear to reach out and take a chance in the larger pool of free-agency year in and year out.