Texas Rangers

Napoli’s ‘street cred’ should give boost to Rangers’ lineup

Mike Napoli, above, knows what it takes to win playoff games, manager Jeff Banister says.
Mike Napoli, above, knows what it takes to win playoff games, manager Jeff Banister says. AP

Mike Napoli landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport around 10:30 a.m. and arrived at Safeco Field about an hour later.

His name had already been written into the Texas Rangers’ lineup by manager Jeff Banister.

The Rangers acquired Napoli on Friday from Boston to be the right-handed bat the offense had been missing against left-handed pitchers this season. Seattle started lefty Mike Montgomery, so there was no time like the present.

Napoli will be in the lineup against lefties, usually at the expense of first baseman Mitch Moreland, a lefty hitter. Napoli has an .845 on-base plus slugging percentage this season against lefties. Moreland’s OPS vs. lefties is .672.

Over their careers, Napoli is at .904 and Moreland is .644.

“We wanted to get him in there as quick as we could,” Banister said. “I envision using him like we do everyone else, as part of the process of winning ballgames. How we use him will be determined by how he plays and how he fits into our lineup. I need to get him into our lineup, get him in the mix, and see where it takes us right now.”

But Napoli is going to play often, either in a platoon with Moreland, to give Prince Fielder a day off or to come off the bench late against a lefty reliever.

His presence alone adds to the Rangers’ lineup and gives them a veteran who knows how to play in a playoff race.

“This guy’s got street cred in everything that he’s done as a hitter and as a player in the playoffs and World Series,” Banister said. “Anytime you have an opportunity to add a player like this into your lineup and into your clubhouse, it can be dynamic.”

Rua ready to work

Ryan Rua wasn’t crushed to learn that he had been optioned to Triple A to clear a spot for Napoli.

Rua was taking the approach that the stint in the minors will help him be a better player down the stretch.

The Rangers’ Opening Day left fielder, Rua missed more than two months because of a foot and ankle injury suffered April 10 during the home opener. He has been a part-time player since returning, and playing every day for Round Rock could jump-start his bat by the time rosters expand Sept. 1.

“I’ve always been an everyday guy,” Rua said. “This year has been kind of a learning experience. It will be nice getting back into a rhythm. It’ll be good. Just seeing good pitches, having good at-bats, staying versatile. Whatever happens happens.”

Left field will remain the priority for the right-handed hitter, but he will also work at third base and second base. Banister also sees the value in getting Rua regular playing time and is convinced that Rua will be a significant contributor in the majors.

“We have an opportunity to send him down, to get the at-bats, to get that rhythm, gain that traction so that when we need him again, and I’m sure we will, that he will have had those consistent at-bats that it takes to get going as a hitter,” Banister said.

Wins not driving Lewis

Right-hander Colby Lewis will enter his start Sunday with a team-high 12 wins, a number that ranks tied for sixth in the majors.

He could not care less.

In the age where the value of a pitching win is greatly diminished, Lewis buys the argument. He won Monday night despite allowing seven runs in six innings but has lost games throughout his career in which he allowed one or two runs.

“You can go out there and pitch great and give up one run and get the loss,” Lewis said. “Wins and losses I don’t think are a big deal, especially as a starter.”

Though blessed by more than six runs of offense a start, Lewis has been fine without it most of the season. He has posted quality starts in 14 of his 22 outings, including 10 of his past 12.

As he has said since rejoining the Rangers in 2010, all he wants to do is give his team a chance to win each start.

“For the most part I’ve gone out there and kept us in the game,” Lewis said.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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