Texas Rangers

Chirinos in, Napoli out of Rangers’ lineup

Robinson Chirinos has forced his way into the Texas Rangers’ lineup on a more regular basis, and is increased playing time appears to have come at the expense of fan-favorite Mike Napoli.

Chirinos started Wednesday at designed hitter the night after connecting for his 11th home run and lowering his at-bat/homer ratio to an MLB-best 8.82 among players with at least two home runs.

He has only 97 at-bat this season as the backup to catcher Jonathan Lucroy, and the Rangers want to see what he can do on a more regular basis.

Chirinos added his 12th homer Wednesday on a solo shot in the fifth.

“It’s been a challenge to keep him out of the everyday rotation as we’ve gotten the full compliment of hitters back,” manager Jeff Banister said. “He’s doing a lot of good things for us in the batter’s box.”

Lucroy started at catcher, and Banister said that there will be more instances when both catchers are in the same lineup as they were in the third of four games this week against the Cleveland Indians.

They had been in the same lineup eight times before Wednesday, with Lucroy starting seven of them at DH.

While Napoli has 14 home runs this season, he was batting only .191 after a 4-for-30 stretch that includes 16 strikeouts. The average was second-worst among American League qualifiers, and his 83 strikeouts were tied for ninth in the league entering Wednesday.

“Not a lot of consistent barrel contact,” Banister said. “I don’t think there are any real timing issues.”

Napoli said that he is continuing to search for the right swing that will get him going again after he established career-highs in homers (34) and RBI (101) last season. It looks like he will have to do so without the regular playing time he has been receiving.

“I come to the field every day whether I’m playing or not playing,” Napoli said. “When I’m not playing, I probably to more and exert myself a little more and really concentrate on little things to get a good feeling.

“You know me, I’m honest. Obviously, it shows that I’ve just been searching. I’m trying to grind it out to do whatever I can compete. I feel like I’ve been getting pitched tough. When I get something to hit, I really don’t take a good swing at it. But five days ago I hit two homers. I have one hit in the last four games, but I don’t feel like I’m that far off.”

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram