Mike Napoli is entering — or already has entered — a make-or-break point in his Boston Red Sox tenure.
While the Red Sox still have faith in Napoli’s ability to turn around his dismal 2015 season, the first baseman needs to start producing or else Boston could consider alternatives. The club already made a statement Sunday by sitting Napoli and starting David Ortiz at first base against an American League team for the first time since 2006. Perhaps other avenues will be explored, too. And Napoli knows it.
“I’m on what’s supposed to be a winning team and I’m not producing. It’s taking a toll on me,” Napoli told The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier on Sunday. “If you’re not mentally frustrated, there’s something wrong.
“But I come here every day to work and try to fix it. … I wake up every day thinking that today’s the day. I’m just going to keep working, keep doing what I’ve done in my career, to get out of this thing.”
Napoli entered Monday’s off-day hitting .192 with a .294 on-base percentage and 78 strikeouts in 299 plate appearances. As Speier notes, Napoli and Stephen Drew are the only two players of 116 qualifiers with an average below .200 and an on-base percentage below .300. It would be even worse for Napoli if not for his huge week in late May, which at the time looked like a turning point for the 33-year-old.
So, what should the Red Sox do? It depends on who you ask, of course.
Boston could turn to Brock Holt as its everyday first baseman, try Pablo Sandoval at the position or even ask Ortiz to use his glove more frequently. The most palatable solution, however, involves Napoli simply breaking out of his season-long malaise — something he’s working hard to accomplish.
“I’m going to hit. It’s just me being able to bring what I do in my work before the game, in the cage and batting practice into the game,” Napoli told Speier. “I’m confident. I went out there (Sunday) and had a really good session.”
Unfortunately for Napoli, good sessions haven’t translated into good on-field results. And right now, that’s what matters most.
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports Images
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