Over the weekend Mike Napoli and the Rangers avoided arbitration with a one-year, $9.4 million deal, but the ankle injury he suffered in Game 6 of the World Series continues to bother the catcher and figures to limit him at the beginning of spring training.
“The fact he’s still feeling it a few months later speaks to what he went through to play the rest of Game 6 and go back out for Game 7,” general manager Jon Daniels told Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News. “It was about as bad as it looked to the rest of us.”
When he initially suffered the injury running the bases it seemed impossible that Napoli would remain in the game, yet he stayed in and then played (and caught) Game 7 too. Given what we know now about the injury that’s pretty damn amazing, although it may not have been a smart decision for Napoli long term if he’s still limited six months later.
Fraley speculates that the situation could keep Napoli from expanding his regular season workload behind the plate, although the Rangers’ team doctor recently examined his ankle and found no structural damage. Yorvit Torrealba, who started for much of the season before giving way to Napoli in the playoffs, is still around as the Rangers’ backup catcher. And the 30-year-old Napoli is eligible for free agency next offseason.
Here are the Rangers and Blue Jays lineups for Game 1 of the ALDS in Toronto:
CF Delino DeShields
RF Shin-Soo Choo
3B Adrian Beltre
DH Prince Fielder
1B Mike Napoli
LF Josh Hamilton
SS Elvis Andrus
2B Rougned Odor
C Robinson Chirinos
SP Yovani Gallardo
With left-hander David Price on the mound for Toronto the Rangers are going with Mike Napoli at first base over Mitch Moreland. Beyond that it’s a pretty standard lineup for Texas, or at least standard for what manager Jeff Banister used down the stretch once Josh Hamilton was healthy enough to play left field.
LF Ben Revere
3B Josh Donaldson
RF Jose Bautista
DH Edwin Encarnacion
SS Troy Tulowitzki
1B Justin Smoak
C Russell Martin
2B Ryan Goins
CF Kevin Pillar
SP David Price
After returning from the disabled list for the final weekend of the regular season Troy Tulowitzki is in the lineup and batting fifth. That allows Ryan Goins to play second base in place of the injured Devon Travis. Justin Smoak gets the nod over Chris Colabello at first base against a right-hander.
Houston made one unexpected change to the roster for the ALDS, leaving off veteran reliever Chad Qualls.
Qualls warmed up but never appeared in the Wild Card game win over the Yankees and during the regular season the 36-year-old right-hander logged 49 innings with a 4.38 ERA and 46/9 K/BB ratio. Qualls was on the Astros’ last playoff team in 2005.
Utility man Jonathan Villar has been bumped off the roster in favor of outfielder Preston Tucker, as the Astros opted for a good left-handed bat off the bench versus the Royals rather than Villar’s speed.