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Angels' Napoli will start at catcher over Mathis

The defensive numbers favor Mathis, but Scioscia is confident Napoli is the right pairing with Weaver for Game 2 against Boston.

October 09, 2009|Mike DiGiovanna

The overall defensive numbers favor Jeff Mathis, but Manager Mike Scioscia will start catcher Mike Napoli tonight with pitcher Jered Weaver for Game 2 against the Red Sox.

Weaver has a 3.38 earned-run average in the 141 1/3 innings he has thrown to Mathis this season; he has a 4.59 ERA in 68 2/3 innings with Napoli.

But Napoli caught six of Weaver's last nine starts, and the right-hander had a 2.11 ERA in 38 1/3 innings of those games, including a seven-hit shutout in Cleveland on Aug. 19.

"Mike has worked well with Jered recently," Scioscia said. "The bottom line is if Mike is doing the job behind the plate -- and he's done a better job the last 20 or 30 games -- that's obviously a bat you want to put in the lineup to see if it can contribute."

Most Angels fans think Napoli should get the bulk of the playing time at catcher because he is the superior hitter, with a .272 average, 20 homers and 56 runs batted in compared with Mathis' .211 average, five homers and 28 RBIs entering Game 1.

But Mathis is the more athletic, better all-around catcher, and Napoli slumped so badly at the plate in September and October, hitting .218, that Mathis got most of the starts.

Napoli, though, went four for seven with an opposite-field home run in two games in Oakland last weekend and appears to be emerging from his funk.

"I'm definitely feeling comfortable in the box and making good contact," Napoli said. "It's been tougher not being in there every day. You fell like you find something, then you sit for a day or two and you can't find it."

Napoli caught five of Scott Kazmir's six starts with the Angels and will probably start Game 3 with the left-hander Sunday in Boston. An offensive tear by Napoli, however, won't guarantee him the starting job.

"In some cases, if a player gets hot at a certain position you would stay with him, but catching is different," Scioscia said. "If Mike is doing the job behind the plate, and that's first and foremost, you would want his bat in there. But you can't put a guy in who's going to take a pitcher backward and think you're going to be further ahead."

Bulger a go

The Angels were satisfied enough with reliever Jason Bulger's arm speed and stuff during Wednesday's bullpen workout to keep him on their playoff roster for this series.

The right-hander left Saturday's game because of shoulder stiffness and received a cortisone injection. If he aggravates the injury, the team can replace him on its division series roster, but Bulger wouldn't be eligible for the next round.


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