Napoli hopes homer leads to resurgence at plate
Red Sox first baseman had been in 0-for-16 slide before going deep
TORONTO -- Mike Napoli, who was expected to be Boston's lead protector in the batting order for David Ortiz, was lowered in the batting order for the second time in a span of six days.
But instead of wallowing about his recent lack of success, Napoli reversed his fortunes while batting seventh in the batting order for the first time this season on Wednesday.
With two outs in the top of the ninth inning, the right-handed slugger belted a game-tying two-run homer to right.
The Red Sox eventually lost, 4-3, in 10 innings. But in the big picture, a resurgence by Napoli would be critical.
"Yeah I mean, a guy like him, we get him going, it just lengthens our lineup, so hopefully that puts him in a good frame of mind," said Red Sox lefty Jon Lester. "And he should be pumped about that, he's pretty excited. Hopefully we can get him going. Once we do that, like I just said, it lengthens our lineup, makes us that much stronger. So that was a good thing to see from him, especially going the other way with it."
The home run by Napoli ended an 0-for-16 slump.
Manager John Farrell and Napoli chatted Wednesday to discuss the move to seventh in the lineup.
"We talked and it's about winning," said Napoli. "I've been struggling a little bit and I'm up for whatever is going to help us win. If it's dropping me down a little bit until I get out of this little funk I'm going through, I'm all for it. I'm not looking at it in any bad way. Yeah, we had a good conversation. I'm going to go out there and try to turn it around and get back hitting again."
While his bat showed signs of life both before and right after the All-Star break, Napoli had gone ice-cold in August, coming up with just five hits in his first 40 at-bats of August, just one of them for extra bases.
Though he has been a notorious streak hitter during his career, Napoli admits that his current slide is more than run of the mill.
"It's probably been one of the more difficult ones I've been through," Napoli said.
"Just a feeling of how long it's been. I've had a couple of games here and there where I felt good," Napoli said. "I think just the way I've been feeling, it hasn't really clicked over. It's probably been one of the more difficult stretches I've been through."
Though Napoli has been the team's primary first baseman all season, Farrell indicated that he will start mixing in left-handed hitters Daniel Nava and Mike Carp more often.
Jonny Gomes and Stephen Drew, two players who have swung the bat well of late, batted fifth and sixth Wednesday.
"And we feel like that's the combination for now," Farrell said. "We'd also look to possibly rotate some guys in through that first base position. I'm not going to say we're going to go to a strict platoon situation. Obviously that's not the case going against a right-hander tonight."
Buchholz calls Wednesday 'best day' of recovery
TORONTO -- In his two months of trying to get back on the mound for the Red Sox, Clay Buchholz labeled Wednesday's bullpen session as his "best day."
That's good news for the Red Sox, considering Buchholz was one of the elite pitchers in the game before suffering the right bursa sac strain that has kept him out of action longer than anyone expected.
"It was the best day so far," Buchholz said. "Probably threw close to 50 pitches, up and down three times. Like I said, the best I've felt, as far as intensity and everything."
Buchholz will repeat the exercise on Saturday at Fenway Park. Assuming everything stays on track, he will face hitters after that, most likely in a simulated situation before going on a Minor League rehab assignment.
The Red Sox still expect Buchholz to have time to pitch multiple times in rehab games before the Minor League season ends in early September.
Buchholz is past the point of targeting a return date to the active roster.
"I've already tried that and it didn't work out too well. I'll just let it happen when it happens," Buchholz said.
Ailing Victorino mainly hitting from right side
TORONTO -- Shane Victorino continues to be a winning player for the Red Sox on both sides of the ball, despite weakness in his left leg that has left him far below 100 percent.
Starting with the game on Aug. 4 against the D-backs, the switch-hitter has batted almost exclusively right-handed. On Wednesday against the Blue Jays, he began the game batting lefty against righty Esmil Rogers.
Victorino would rather bat right on right instead of sitting on the bench, that much is clear.
"It's because of how I feel. I don't have the drive and the sit-back on my back leg to be able to turn and twist on it yet," said Victorino. "That's the part that's been frustrating for me is not having that. It's something we're working on every day to try and get back, because trust me, I want to be back on that side.
"That's what I signed on to do, be a switch-hitter and not a right-handed hitter. If you go out and produce and it's from the right side, you go out and do it. That's the kind of stuff I focus on every day."
Victorino continues to be a force on defense in his first full season as a right fielder.
"The one thing that we've seen throughout the course of the year is his ability to throw, which is, I think better than our anticipated reports on him," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "To me, defensively, he might be the best right fielder in baseball right now just because of his range and his ability to throw. He's an intuitive player. He's instinctual. He finds a way to make something happen based on the game situation that's in front of him."