The last time Mike Napoli played the outfield he was in high school.
But he started in left field Sunday afternoon for the Texas Rangers.
That’s how badly Rangers manager Jeff Banister is trying to shake up a sluggish offense that has struggled to string productive hits together recently.
The Rangers’ offense has especially struggled against left-handed pitching.
He’s the 12th Rangers player to start in left field this season. It has been talked about since Napoli came to Texas via a trade with the Red Sox on Aug. 7.
“This is not a new idea. We’ve been working on this since he got here,” Banister said. “He’s going to run down what he can. He’s going to catch what he gets to and he’s going to throw the ball to the cutoff man.”
Napoli dismissed any notion of nerves about playing the outfield.
“I’ve been out there taking fly balls and throwing to bases,” he said with a smirk. “I guess today is the day to get out there and do it.”
He’s been working with Rangers field coordinator Jayce Tingler on reading balls off the bat and detecting slice.
“Hardest thing is probably the line drive,” he said. “Having the depth perception and deciding if it’s going to fall in front of me or do I need to go back.”
Entering Sunday, the Rangers had scored seven runs combined in their past four games, including two losses against lefties. Texas, hitting a combined .243 against left-handers this season, broke out with 12 runs in Sunday’s victory.
“This is not about being a complete outfielder,” Banister acknowledge. “There are a lot of guys who go out and roam the outfield that aren’t complete outfielders. Let’s not over analyze this, let’s don’t overplay this.”
It’s about finding a way to get Napoli, Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland in the lineup at the same time, Banister said.
“It’s about putting the bats in the lineup,” he said. “We have not put together an attack against a left-handed starter.”
With the Rangers leading 8-0 after the fifth inning Sunday, Napoli moved to first base in place of Moreland and Will Venable took over in left. Napoli went 0 for 2 with three walks, two strikeouts and a run scored. He did not have a ball hit to him in five innings in left. He made a fielding error at first in the sixth.
“We’ll see how it plays out,” Banister said. “We’ll have all the concerns that everybody else has. But I’m not willing to sit on the sidelines and not find a way to get this right against left-handers.”
Chirinos still down
Catcher Robinson Chirinos is still in considerable pain since the biceps tendon in his left shoulder snapped in the first inning Wednesday in Seattle.
He hopes to feel comfortable enough to return later this week.
“It’s really sore,” he said. “I’ve been doing treatment and taking anti-inflammatory. Hopefully it calms down enough to get back to the field [soon].”
“Let’s not overplay or underplay the position but it’s a little less challenging going from the dirt to the grass. They just take a little longer to get to you out there.” — Banister on Napoli starting in left field for the first time Sunday
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760