Mike Napoli, third baseman? Could be

Mike Napoli, third baseman? Could be
October 26, 2013, 6:00 pm
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ST. LOUIS -- During batting practice before Game 3 at Busch Stadium, the Red Sox had Mike Napoli taking grounders at third base in an apparent effort to give themselves additional flexibility during the three World Series games here.

"Not tonight," said John Farrell near the batting cage of the possibility of Napoli playing third, "but it's an option."

Napoli has just one game of professional experience at third, having played there in 2002 at Single A Cedar Rapids of the Midwest League while in the Angels' minor-league system.

The Sox made Xander Bogaerts their starting third baseman in the World Series, taking the job away from Will Middlebrooks (who started every game of the Division Series against Tampa Bay, then the first four games of the ALCS against Detroit before giving way to Bogaerts).

Bogaerts is hitless in six at-bats in the first two games of the World Series, but is hitting .250 (3-for-12) in the postseason overall.

Napoli, the team's starting first baseman during the season, was on the bench for Game 3 as the Red Sox elected to start DH David Ortiz at first base.

It's likely that Farrell was thinking of using Napoli at third as part of an in-game move in a situation in which the team needed to make a double switch or found themselves needing to pinch-hit for someone on the left side of the infield. It may also be that the Sox, should they fall behind in the series, would give some thought to having Napoli start at third with Bogaerts moving over to shortstop, supplanting the slumping Stephen Drew. Drew went into Game 3 hitting just .095 (4-for-42) in the postseason.

The other day in Boston, Farrell seemed to dismiss any suggestion to sit Drew.

"Stephen has been in a situation where he's saved us a number of runs," he said. "He's anchored our defense on the infield. Offensively, he's had his struggles, there's no doubt about it. But as I've said a number of times, pitching and defense keeps you in games. It gives you an opportunity to win some games late, and the defense he provides is a premium to us."

But it's also difficult for the Sox to be without Napoli -- the hitter who was second in homers and RBI during the season -- and that could prompt a change in Game 4 or beyond.