Rested Napoli heating up for Red Sox

Rested Napoli heating up for Red Sox
August 26, 2013, 12:45 am
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LOS ANGELES -- Between his sore foot and a cold bat, Mike Napoli had been pretty much of a non-factor in the Red Sox lineup for much of August.
This weekend, that began to change.
On Saturday, Napoli collected three hits and knocked in a run in the Red Sox' 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. On Sunday, he had two more hits -- a double and a moonshot homer to left -- to produce three more.
Those five hits and four RBI were big as the Sox finished off the Dodgers with a series win.
Those two games stand in stark contrast to the rest of August. From Aug. 2 until Saturday, Napoli hit just .111 in 14 games with meager .222 slugging percentage and only three extra-base hits.
But with his plantar fasciitis worsening, he got some time off last week. After playing Aug. 16 in the first game of the home series against the New York Yankees, Napoli was on the bench, out of the starting lineup for the next six games.
When he returned, his foot -- with some help from a cortisone shot -- was improved, but perhaps just as important, his body was rested.
"I think the thing that we're learning about Mike," said John Farrell, "is that when he's rested, he's a force. And we've got to continue to balance that as we go forward. That will probably include rotating some guys through (at first). I don't want to say it will be a platoon situation, but when he's rested, that swing is pretty dynamic."
While the foot is improved, Farrell doesn't necessarily see the connection between that and his hot bat.
"I don't think it's because of what he's dealing with," said Farrell. "I think it's more when he's fresh. That's when his timing is more spot on. That's when his spring is more compact and it doesn't get as long. I think it's more about his overall fatigue level and managing that rather than the foot."
With five weeks remaining in the season, Napoli is on pace to set career highs for at-bats and plate appearances. But perhaps, as Farrell suggests, the key is to make sure that Napoli doesn't wear himself out with too many games.
The more rested he is, the better he is. Except Napoli doesn't necessarily see it that way.
When he was asked what benefit the rest had had, he focused elsewhere.
"Yeah, for my foot," he said. "I don't necessarily think (it helped my swing). I was feeling better (at the plate) before I got some rest. But my body feels rested. I don't know. I was feeling better and now it's starting to show.
"I've been working on the swing for a while now. It's just finally going out there and playing the game, competing. My body's taking over in the game. You can work on all the stuff you want in BP. But it just has to carry over in the game when you're competing. You can't think about mechanics when you're trying to hit a 95 mph fastball. I definitely feel better with my body and I'm in the right position to hit."
After a punishing stretch of the schedule, with two long road trips, the schedule gets somewhat easier for the Sox, with five built in off-days over the final 35 days of the season.
That -- and occasional time at first for switch-hitter Daniel Nava and lefty Mike Carp -- could help preserve Napoli and keep his swing fresh for the home stretch.