Napoli gets start in return to Angel Stadium

Napoli gets start in return to Angel Stadium

Napoli gets start in return to Angel Stadium
ANAHEIM -- Mike Napoli was in the lineup on Tuesday night against the Angels. Manager Ron Washington said Yorvit Torrealba will likely catch Wednesday night and Napoli will be behind the plate on Thursday.

Napoli spent five seasons with the Angels before being traded to the Blue Jays, and then the Rangers, in the offseason. This was his first appearance in Angel Stadium as a member of the opposing team, although he has faced the Angels in Spring Training and in Arlington.

"It's a little weird walking in here on the other side," Napoli said. "I had five great years here, and now I'm on the other side. But I love my new teammates, we're having fun here. It's great."

Napoli returns in a triumphant manner. His team is in first place, he entered 8-for-14 with two home runs in his past four games -- then singled in his first at-bat Tuesday -- and his pitchers have a 2.53 ERA with him behind the plate. That's the best for any catcher with at least 25 games caught in the American League. His batterymate on the Angels, Jeff Mathis, has the second-best catcher's ERA at 2.99.

"I've always tried to be good on both," Napoli said. "I always cared about hitting, and not just the defensive side. I wanted to be a complete player. I know my job is to help pitchers get through games, but when it is time to hit, I take that seriously."

The Angels' biggest question with Napoli was if he could hold up for an entire season behind the plate.

"At times, he did a good job for us behind the plate," said Los Angeles skipper Mike Scioscia. "The issue for us was always durability. He couldn't really catch from last August to the end of the year with us. Mike has that potential to catch at a high level, and he's certainly doing a good job for them."

Napoli and Mathis shared the job for the Angels over the past five seasons. But when Angels first baseman Kendrys Morales went down with a broken leg at the end of May, Napoli was the one who was asked to move to first base. He plays both for the Rangers.

"I love catching," Napoli said. "I like first base. It's easier and less stressful. But I like being behind the plate, grinding through a game and working with the pitcher."

Napoli's home-run rate of one every 16.06 at-bats in Angel Stadium is the second-best ratio (minimum 500 at-bats) in the history of the ballpark.

"He's playing against his old team, so I wanted to get him out there," Washington said. "He's been here and played well here. He grinds out at-bats. He gives you a veteran presence behind the plate. He calls a good game and has a feel for this league."