Josh Naylor in a sky blue RubberDucks jersey looks just like Josh Naylor in a navy blue Guardians jersey.
There is the curly hair under the hat when he plays first base and under the helmet when he steps into the batter’s box.
And then there are the hard hit balls around the diamond.
Naylor lined a single into the outfield Tuesday and Thursday against the Bowie Baysox in his first two games on a rehab assignment at Canal Park in Akron.
That’s good news for Cleveland’s front office and coaching staff, and for his teammates and fans of the Guardians, who entered Friday five games behind the first-place Minnesota Twins in the American League Central Division.
Naylor, 26, is set to play two more games in Akron on Friday and Sunday as he works toward rejoining the Guardians after being placed on the 10-day injured list on Aug. 1 with a right oblique strain.
“He felt way better tonight,” RubberDucks manager Rouglas Odor said Thursday after a 4-3 win over the Baysox. “He was able to take his regular swings, where as in the first game in his first at-bat he was kind of testing his body. He was way better.”
Naylor, who declined to comment after Thursday’s win, went 1-for-3 Thursday after going 1-for-2 Tuesday.
Naylor grounded into a double play Thursday, but Odor said he was pleased with the effort out of the batter’s box.
“I am happy that he was able to run hard,” Odor said. “He hit a ground ball with the bases loaded and he was trying to beat the throw to first base, so he gave a full effort. That was nice to see.”
Naylor, a Canadian from Mississauga, Ontario, last played for Guardians on July 31 against the Houston Astros. He is batting .306 with 15 home runs and 79 RBIs in 96 games for the Guardians this season.
“It is huge when you have that type of player here that has been having success in the big leagues and has also been in postseason games in the big leagues,” Odor said. “That says a lot. The fact that he is giving advice here to the players and helping these kids out and the players are asking questions, that is huge for me, for the team and for the organization as well.”
Naylor is enjoying a breakout season and joined perennial all-star José Ramírez to give the Guardians two consistent hitters in the middle of the order. Kole Calhoun has admirably filled Naylor’s role the past few weeks with key hits.
“It is important to have guys like that around,” Ducks infielder Aaron Bracho said. “I am picking up a couple of things from him. He is so smart and I listen to everything he says. He talks to us in the [batting] cages. We see him as we want to get to where he is. We want to be next to him. We want to play with him and help the [Guardians] team win. That is fun.”
Naylor played high school baseball at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Secondary School in Canada before being selected by the Miami Marlins with the 12th pick in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft.
He was traded to San Diego on July 29, 2016, and then dealt to Cleveland on Aug. 31, 2020, along with Cal Quantrill, Austin Hedges, Owen Miller, Gabriel Arias and Joey Cantillo for Mike Clevinger, Greg Allen and Matt Waldron.
Naylor knows what it is like to be a highly regarded prospect, just as Ducks infielders Juan Brito, Angel Martínez and Bracho and outfielder Petey Halpin are now.
“I have seen Josh help every single player out if somebody has a question,” Brito said through Odor, his interpreter. “He is willing to answer questions and it is helpful having him here.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at mbeaven@thebeaconjournal and is on Twitter at @MBeavenABJ.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Guardians star Josh Naylor gives ‘full effort’ with RubberDucks