BOSTON — As the Red Sox went for their third straight win Tuesday night, Mike Napoli again watched from the bench.
Instead, manager John Farrell decided to go with Triple-A call-up Travis Shaw at first base for the opener of Boston’s two-game series with the Miami Marlins
“With two off-days, not having the need for a fifth starter, Justin (Masterson) going to the bullpen, we needed another guy that could play first base,” Farrell explained before the game, which the Red Sox went on to win 4-3. “Travis comes to us, in the lineup (Tuesday) and here to contribute.”
The reason Shaw is in Boston this week rather than chipping away in Pawtucket is that Napoli, who at his best is one of the Red Sox’s best power bats, simply cannot seem to shake the brutal slump that has consumed the bulk of his season.
The first baseman entered Tuesday batting .192 — the lowest average among all everyday Red Sox starters — with a .294 on-base percentage and .358 slugging mark that both are well below his career averages.
“(He’s going to) continue to work through the challenges in which he’s finding himself in right now,” Farrell said. “The work ethic is there. He’s trying to gain some comfort at the plate, and that’s going to have to come through repetition and working with (hitting coach Chili Davis), which he’s done early. He’s been here on off days and will continue to work through it to right itself. At some point, that work’s got to be put back on the field and (given) an opportunity to play itself out. But for the time being, we’re giving him that chance to work through some things.”
How long are the Red Sox willing to wait for Napoli to find his stroke?
“As long as it takes,” Farrell said. “But at the same time, you see different alignments to help sustain a certain production at every position — not just Mike’s. But we’re always looking for the right combinations to put on the field, and that’s where we are with (Tuesday’s) lineup.”
Inserting Shaw proved to be the right move Tuesday, as the 25-year-old collected his first major league hit as part of a 3-for-4 night. Farrell said after the game he had not yet decided who would start at first base Wednesday, and he mentioned that David Ortiz could very well take the field again before next week’s All-Star break.
Ortiz started at first base Sunday against the Houston Astros, the first time he’d done so in a non-interleague game since 2006.
As for Napoli, the plan simply is to keep working, with Davis and alone, until he once again can become a valuable part of the Red Sox’s lineup.
“I’m just not performing to how I should,” Napoli told reporters before the game game, via The Providence Journal. “I know I’m a better player than this, but I’m going to keep working and keep grinding away. I’m not a quitter. We’re starting to win ballgames, so that helps a little bit. I need to start doing my part.”
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images