Dioner “Pudjito” Navarro Signs with the Reds
By Scott Andes
The Dodgers have gone through a lot of roster transition this winter, and many longtime Dodgers have moved on to other teams. Former Dodgers are spread throughout the league now. We like to keep you guys informed of where these former Dodgers end up. Yesterday catcher Dioner Navarro A.K.A. “Pudjito” signed with the Cincinnati Reds. The contract is a minor league deal worth 800,000 dollars with an invite to spring training. According to Jon Heyman on Twitter the deal has 200,000 dollars worth of incentives. According to reports Navarro will provide the Reds with catching depth, and likely start the year in triple-A while playing behind Devin Mescoraco and Ryan Hanigan.
Navarro is 27 years old and was once considered a top prospect. It’s hard not to root for the switch hitting catcher from Caracas, Distrito Federal, Venezuela after reading about all of the hardships he has overcome. The Yankees signed him as an amateur free agent in 2000. He spent a few years in the minors, playing very well and winning minor league player of the year award. Navarro made his MLB debut in September of 2004, going 3 for 7 in seven games.
Before the 2005 season Navarro was traded by the Yankees to Arizona along with Javier Vazquez, and Brad Halsey, for Randy Johnson. Literally minutes later, Navarro was flipped to the Dodgers along with three minor leaguers for Shawn Green. Navarro was actually decent in his first two seasons with the Dodgers. He played in 50 games in 2006 hitting .273 with three home runs and 14 RBI. Navarro eventually lost the starting catcher job to Russell Martin, then was disabled because of a wrist injury. In 2006 Navarro played in 25 games for the Dodgers, hitting .280 before being traded to Tampa Bay. He batted .244 with four home runs in 56 games for the Rays to finish the 2006 season.
In 2007 he played in 119 games for Tampa Bay hitting only .227 with 9 home runs and 44 RBI. 2008 was his best season. He hit .295 with 7 home runs and 54 RBI in 120 games. Since then he has spiraled into a complete career flame-out. In 2009 he batted .218 with 8 home runs in 115 games. The next season in 2010 he was even worse, hitting a paltry .194 in 48 games. Because he was so bad, the Rays left him off of the payoff roster in 2010. Instead of staying with the team, he decided to throw a tantrum, packed his belongings and left the club. Not long after he was put on waivers.The Dodgers brought him back for a second stint with the team in 2011. On a one year contract, Navarro began the season on the disabled list because of a torn oblique injury. He rejoined the Dodgers on April 25th. Navarro was god awful with the Dodgers last year. He hit .193 with five home runs and 17 RBI in 64 games. However there were three games in which Navarro drove in the sole run of 1-0 Dodger wins (the only other player to do this in L.A. Dodger history was Gary Sheffield in 2001). Two were game winning home runs. One was a victory over the Astros on Father’s Day, one was a splash solo shot into the McCovey cove to help Kershaw beat the Giants 1-0, and the third game was an RBI single beating the Padres in a game that saw the Dodgers no-hit until two outs in the bottom of the ninth. After reports surfaced about Navarro not preparing properly for games, he was cut from the team on August 23rd. It came as no surprise as Don Mattingly wasn’t having none of that.
Navarro has persevered through many hardships throughout his adult life. Both his wife and mom suffered and survived cerebral aneurysms, and Navarro himself survived a bad car accident when his SUV was clipped and rolled over several times. Navarro and his wife Shirley reside in Riverview Florida. They have two sons. Navarro’s stepson Gerson and another son named Dioner Jr. Navarro is also a pet enthusiast who owns several pets. Two bulldogs and one chameleon are among his many animals. Despite hovering in auto-out territory all throughout 2011, we wish Navarro all the best in Cincinnati, and we hope he can revive his career somehow.
NOTE: we had been calling Navarro “Pudjito” since he was a rookie. One game last year we heard Vin Scully say on air that his childhood nickname was in fact “pudjito”