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.
Tied at a league-leading 10 home runs apiece with Cody Bellinger and Khris Davis, it wasn’t long before Brewers slugger Christian Yelich set himself apart from the competition yet again. During the bottom of the first inning on Friday, the 2018 NL MVP singled out the first pitch he saw from the Dodgers’ Ross Stripling — an 86.5-m.p.h. slider just wide of the strike zone — and returned it to the second deck seats in right field for his 11th home run of 2019.
While Bellinger and Davis will undoubtedly continue to make it difficult for Yelich to claim sole honors at the top of the leaderboard, the 27-year-old outfielder has had a banner year so far. Through the first three weeks of the season, he’s batting a strong .354/.447/.823 with 15 extra-base hits, 29 RBI, and three stolen bases across 94 plate appearances. The 29 RBI (27 entering Friday’s game) he collected between March and April eclipsed Prince Fielder’s previous franchise record of 26 RBI — and there’s no telling how much higher that total will rise by the end of the month, too.
Even with the benefit of Yelich’s immense talents, however, the Brewers are just clinging to a first-place tie with the Pirates atop the NL Central. They dropped their last two games to the Cardinals and Dodgers, respectively, and will need to overturn the remainder of their series against LA to build up their division lead again. They’re currently tied 2-2 with the Dodgers in the seventh.