HOUSTON – Mike Napoli is not in the Red Sox starting lineup for the series finale against the Astros on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park, a scheduled day off for the first baseman, manager John Farrell said. Napoli, though, is hitless in a season-high five games, going 0-for-7 with six strikeouts and five walks.
In his past nine games he is 3-for-31 with no extra-base hits, seven walks, and 14 strikeouts. His batting average has fallen 10 points in that time, from .261 to .250.
Napoli entered the game Wednesday after right fielder Shane Victorino was ejected in the seventh inning. Mike Carp moved from first base to left field, Jonny Gomes to right and Napoli took over at first. He popped out in his only at-bat in the eighth. Napoli got in some early work in the batting cage with hitting coach Greg Colbrunn and assistant Victor Rodriguez Wednesday afternoon.
“Today was a day to get him off his feet,” Farrell said. “It was pretty much scheduled even before the extra work was accomplished here today, rotate some other guys through. He needed some focused work to try to reproduce that more direct bat path through the point of contact. He’s been grinding lately, but we felt like the extra work was needed so we gave him a day off his feet.
“Right now, he’s grinding, and as a result, his swing as gotten a little bit longer at times, and he has to commit to above-average velocity," Farrell said. "Does that make him susceptible to a bigger strike zone? Possibly. So these are the things that are being addressed daily and certainly with the early work today.”
Napoli has struck out 147 times this season. Only the Astros' Chris Carter (who began Wednesday with 149) has struck out more.
Farrell said while Napoli is dealing with the typical ailments of a long season, his hips, in which avascular necrosis was diagnosed in the offseason, are not an issue.
Napoli has been streaky throughout much of his eight-season career, and what he’s going through may be an example of that, Farrell said.
“Based on what he’s done to date, in many categories, it’s either right on or not far off of what we anticipated,” Farrell said.
When he returns, it is possible Napoli could be dropped from his usual fifth position in the lineup.
“That’s something I’m going to talk with Mike about before we get into it any further,” Farrell said.
Mike Carp started at first base on Wednesday and batted fifth.