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Mike Napoli remains with Angels — and on the bench

Catcher-first baseman, who has a team-high 21 home runs and is baffled by lack of recent playing time, is nearly dealt to Boston, but the clubs can't work out a deal before deadline for waiver trades.

August 30, 2010|By Mike DiGiovanna

Reporting from Seattle — Mike Napoli was not in the lineup Monday night for a second consecutive game, and it had nothing to do with a potential trade or waiver-wire transaction involving the Angels catcher-first baseman.

The Boston Red Sox and Angels were unable to work out a deal before a midday Monday deadline after the Red Sox made a waiver claim on Napoli. As a result, Napoli, who leads the team with 21 home runs, will finish the season with the Angels.

As for his future in Anaheim, Napoli, who is under club control through 2012, isn't so sure after a weekend of uncertainty, when he literally didn't know whether he was coming or going.

Asked before Monday night's game in Seattle what the odds were of him being an Angel next season, Napoli said, "It could go either way; I'd say it's 50-50.

"I want to play every day," Napoli continued. "I feel I could potentially help the team a lot by being in there every day. I just like to play. … I'm not in there again today."

Napoli, like many Angels fans, can't understand why a team that scored all of one run — on a balk — in three games against the lowly Baltimore Orioles over the weekend would not want its home run leader in the lineup.

And his frustration was evident when asked whether he was beginning to feel like the opportunity to play every day was not going to happen in Anaheim.

"Yeah," said Napoli, who shares catching duties with Jeff Mathis and the first base job with Juan Rivera. "I'm having one of the best years of my career, and I'm not playing much. I guess I don't get it done on the defensive side. I have to clean things up."

Pitchers have a 5.06 earned-run average with 380 strikeouts and 203 walks in 505 innings with Napoli catching. Before Monday, they had a 3.95 ERA with 333 strikeouts and 154 walks in 419 innings with Mathis and a 3.76 ERA in the 201 innings with Bobby Wilson.

"We've talked about my setup, my target," Napoli said. "I'm trying to get my ERA and walks down."

Napoli has been adequate to below average at first base, a position he had little experience at before this season, and despite his power, there are plenty of holes in his offensive game.

Napoli has started 104 of the team's 132 games, 57 at catcher, 46 at first base and one at designated hitter. He is batting .249 with a .317 on-base percentage and 60 runs batted in.

He has a team-leading 108 strikeouts — seventh-most in the American League — and only 29 walks. He is batting .202 with runners in scoring position.

"A lot of power hitters have a lot of strikeouts," Napoli said. "I'm trying to cut down my swing with two strikes, but I'm still going to try to drive the ball."

The Angels say Napoli has had ample opportunity.

"He's played virtually every day," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "A lot of guys are fighting for at-bats. Mike has been in there a lot, and he's driven the ball for us."

General Manager Tony Reagins said players shouldn't put too much stock into waiver-wire chatter.

"Players get placed on waivers on a daily basis, it's the process we have," he said. "There's nothing to read into it."

Napoli can't help it, though. Not when he knows he was almost traded to the Red Sox.

"I'm an Angel now," Napoli said. "I want to help this team. I love everyone in this clubhouse. I don't want to go anywhere else. I want to play. If there are other teams that want to give me an opportunity, I will always do my best."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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