Mike Napoli

John Farrell: 'We're not turning from Mike [Napoli]'

July 08, 2015 - 1:56 pm

Mike Napoli's struggles at the plate border on the cliche, however, Red Sox manager John Farrell's faith in the bearded slugger will not waver. Napoli is hitting just .192 on the year with 10 home runs and 30 RBIs. The righty is striking out at a 26.1 percent rate, surprisingly his best mark since 2011. But, he is walking less (12.4 percent walk rate) and his HR/FB ratio has dropped to 11.4 percent from 19.8 percent in 2012. To make matters worse, Napoli is 2-for-27 over his last nine games, prompting Farrell to use regular designated hitter David Ortiz at first base for the second time in three games as a way to give Napoli time to get back on track. "I think it's important to note that we're not turning from Mike [Napoli]," Farrell said. "Nap has been big in some stretches of time here, some prolonged stretches. Right now, he's on the other side of that and he's working and doing what he can do to get through it. Ultimately [he] will need opportunities to see that work play out, and that'll be upcoming. But right now, the focus is day-to-day of what is tonight's best chance for us to score runs and be on the right side of the scoreboard." Farrell continued to say that with each passing day in the cage and work with hitting coach Chili Davis, Napoli's belief in himself increases. "He's gaining confidence through the work that he's putting in," Farrell added. "That'll be brought further along by some success inside of a game or at least some hard contact. There are those work days to build that initial confidence to get him going." Napoli's issues, combined with an off day on Thursday, allow Farrell to send Ortiz out to first base once again Wednesday night. In Ortiz' first start in the field since the interleague series on the road against the Braves on June 18, he went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts, but did not have to record a putout in a 5-4 Red Sox come-from-behind win over the Astros on Sunday. It was the first time in the Red Sox' 17,867-game history that a putout was not recorded at first base. "The focus with David [Ortiz] at first is today only," Farrell said. "The approach with that is more day-to-day [based] on his availability." Other than Ortiz manning first, the Red Sox have a couple other options including, but not limited to Travis Shaw, who picked up his first three big league hits Tuesday, and Brock Holt, the All-Star utility man who has logged 14 games at first base over the past two seasons. OTHER RED SOX NOTES -- Dustin Pedroia (hamstring) is eligible to return from the disabled list Friday against the Yankees before the All-Star break. The second baseman, who has been sidelined since June 24, began taking ground balls on Tuesday. Farrell was reluctant to give a set date for his return, but did not rule out a Friday appearance. "Knowing that Friday's the first day, it'll probably be day-to-day, our decision-making, as we get past Friday," Farrell said. "So the work continues to increase, the volume, the intensity [and] all baseball-related stuff. [Pedroia has] responded each day physically well from that. He's going to be on the field when he's first ready without any undue risk. "What I don't want to say is it's going to be Friday. ... The best way to describe it is he's going to be on the field as soon as he's ready." -- With the All-Star break looming, many have speculated that Farrell may adjust the rotation to give rising ace Clay Buchholz some days of rest in order to keep him ready for the second half of the season, as Farrell did with former No. 1 starter Jon Lester in the past. Yet, with the way he's been pitching (maintaining a 1.99 ERA over his last 10 starts), Farrell deemed it unlikely that he would skip any start. "Without laying out the rotation because it's not been put in place yet," Farrell said, "the one thing I would say to that is in those years with Jon [Lester], maybe there was some build-up physically that was providing signs that, 'Hey, a couple extra days would help,' or skip him as we did one year. Clay [Buchholz] is in such a good place right now where physically he feels great -- obviously mentally he's in a good spot. I wouldn't compare those two in the same light with that."