FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox aren't locked into any lineup choices, and this is the time of Spring Training where the manager can put everything on the table. Boston manager John Farrell spoke about Daniel Nava on Friday, saying that the veteran could fit at the top or in the middle of the lineup.
With Jacoby Ellsbury gone via free agency, the Red Sox have a glaring hole at the top of the order. And while Shane Victorino would seem like the obvious candidate, the Red Sox liked the way he fit in the No. 2 slot last season, which could possibly open the door for Nava in the top slot.
"He's a good hitter," Farrell said. "The more times we can get our good hitters to the plate, that probably enhances our chances. He's going to find himself in the lineup regularly."
Farrell is still weighing his lineup options, but Nava up top would represent a different path for the outfielder. Nava, 31, started just eight games in the leadoff spot last season and he's started just 35 games there in his three-year career. Nava is a career .252 hitter at the top of the lineup.
Nava homered to lead off Wednesday's game against St. Louis, and his power could entice the Red Sox to bat him in the middle of the order. Nava is a career .333 hitter (31-for-93) when he bats fifth and a .321 hitter (71-for-221) when he bats sixth, presenting Farrell with a lot of things to think about.
"The one thing that you like about Daniel's abilities in that five- or six-hole is he really lengthens out the lineup," Farrell said. "He's going to put [forth] a very tough at-bat, and probably in a key spot. You'd think the guys ahead of him are going to be on base, just by their track record. As an RBI type of bat with that type of consistency, those opportunities are going to be there for him."
Ellsbury led off for the Red Sox 134 times last season, and Victorino batted in the top spot eight times. Nava, meanwhile, had a start in every batting slot except the cleanup spot and the No. 9 spot in the order, and he said that he doesn't really have a preference where he hits in the lineup.
"Leadoff. Five. Six. Two. Wherever. I don't really care, as long as I'm on that lineup card. That's all I care about," said Nava. "I have been at the top of the lineup before, so it wouldn't be something completely foreign. It doesn't really matter to me as far as my approach or anything, because my approach is usually a patient approach. And as a leadoff hitter, that's more or less what you want."
Wherever he hits, Farrell is confident of one thing: Nava will give the team every possible ounce of effort. Nava has already conquered the odds after signing with the Red Sox as an undrafted free agent in 2008, and Farrell said that he's come a long way in his brief taste of life in the Majors.
"I think he's made himself a better player all the way around. I wouldn't say just offensively," he said. "We feel like early in Spring Training, he's run the bases with a little more confidence. As we've seen, any challenge that we've given Daniel, he's responded through hard work and he's improved."
Doubront's improved fastball command key
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- If the early indications mean anything, Felix Doubront could be in for a big year. Doubront stayed ahead of the count and ahead of his past performance in his second outing of the spring Friday, when he worked four scoreless innings for Boston in a 4-1 win over Atlanta.
Doubront has now worked six scoreless innings in Spring Training, but it's the way he's going about his business that has earned him attention. Boston manager John Farrell praised Doubront for his efficiency and composure Friday, and he said the lefty is getting better at fixing his mistakes.
"The one thing we've seen in Felix's two starts -- when he's misfired on a given pitch, he's making the adjustment on the very next one. That, to me, is probably as encouraging a sign as any so far," said Farrell. "He's been efficient. He was originally scheduled for three innings today, but the pitch count was so low we sent him back out for a fourth. He's in a comfortable place right now."
Indeed, Doubront was rarely challenged, and he faced the minimum amount of batters through three innings. Doubront allowed a single but coaxed a double play from Chris Johnson in the third inning, and he allowed a leadoff hit but didn't allow the runner to advance in the fourth.
"I think he's night and day to last year for me," said Boston catcher David Ross, who ushered Doubront through Friday's game. "He's repeating pitches and repeating location. He's able to fix his mechanics mid-game. You know, fastball command is everything for me as a catcher. He's doing a lot better job for me of knowing how to move the ball around the zone just strictly with his fastball."
Doubront also thrived last spring, when he worked to a 3.00 ERA in five starts for Boston. The 26-year-old was a little more erratic in the regular season, but he logged a 4.32 ERA for the Red Sox and made two relief appearances in the team's World Series victory over the Cardinals.
But now, he's turning the head of his manager and his catcher by simply repeating his best pitch. Doubront's improved fastball command has yielded improved confidence on the mound, and he said he has a very simple formula to get himself ready for the start of the regular season.
"Just repeating my delivery," he said. "Repeating my pitches. Throwing strikes. Compared to last year, there's less to work on right now. I'm going to keep doing that and wait until the season starts."
Peavy, Victorino close to appearing in games
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Two of Boston's key injured players are getting closer to a return to the field. Manager John Farrell said Friday morning that Shane Victorino and Jake Peavy should both be able to play by next week, contingent upon them continuing to make progress in their recoveries.
Victorino, who struggled with leg and back ailments last season, is working through the final rounds of strength and agility drills. Peavy, recovering from a knife wound to his left index finger, could pitch in a game as early as Wednesday, and Farrell said he'll go through a bullpen session Saturday.
"Tomorrow, he'll have an extended bullpen where he'll simulate some up-and-down," said Farrell. "After that, he projects to be back in a game [four] days from tomorrow. The wound is healing satisfactorily. Given all things considered, he's making good progress with it."
Peavy, if all goes well, will still be able to make four or five starts in Spring Training. Farrell said Boston will watch him closely, but barring any setbacks, he could be ready to start the season.
"At this point, yeah. And yet, we'll monitor it as we get through his times on the mound," Farrell said. "We're looking at the 12th being the first start. That gives him probably four additional starts here. We're not going to skip steps, but we feel like there's ample time to ramp him up."
Victorino, who declined comment except to say that he "feels good," still has plenty of time to return to the field. The Red Sox want to make sure that everything is in working order before they test him in game action, but the veteran doesn't seem like he's far away from the field.
"Hopefully, early next week," said Farrell on when he expects to have Victorino back in action. "He's making solid progress. He came out of yesterday's work feeling good. He's got more range of motion in all of his activities on the field and is responding very favorably at this point."
Victorino batted .294 with 15 home runs and 82 runs scored in 122 games last season, and the Red Sox have held him off the field in order to preserve him for the long haul. Farrell said that Victorino has a few days left of work, and that even when he returns, he'll do so in gradual bits and pieces.
"Just everyday work that he'll go through with the team," he said. "And once we do get him back on the field, then it's a matter of just a gradual buildup from length inside a given game -- number of at-bats, number of innings played. More importantly, he's getting closer to getting back on the field. We had anticipated that, but there was some work that needed to be done before getting in the lineup."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.