Napoli airs frustrations
Mike Napoli started Thursday night, only the third time in 10 games he got the nod at catcher, and while he was happy to be in the lineup, he has been so frustrated by his lack of playing time he requested a meeting with Manager Mike Scioscia this week.
“I don’t like coming in here and not seeing my name in the lineup,” said Napoli, who had a single in three at-bats in a 6-2 loss to the Yankees.
“I’m a competitor. I want to be on the field. I don’t feel like a player who should be in the lineup for only two of nine games. I feel like I should be a starter.”
Napoli hit 20 home runs in each of the last two seasons and has split the catching job with Jeff Mathis for two years; Napoli started 100 games in 2009, 82 at catcher and 18 at designated hitter.
But Napoli’s spring defensive struggles, and Mathis’ strong play behind the plate, has cut into Napoli’s playing time this season.
The fact he did not play against Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte on Tuesday -- Napoli has started against most lefties the last two years -- prompted his meeting with the manager.
“It’s always the defensive part,” Napoli said, when asked why he is not playing as much as expected. “I thought I made some strides in spring training. I guess I have to be better.”
Scioscia said, “If one of those guys takes the job and runs with it, great,” but he wouldn’t say whether Mathis, who is batting .333, has done just that.
“Mike is going to catch enough to contribute,” Scioscia said. “Playing time is based on production, and first and foremost, we need that defensive presence behind the plate. Jeff is getting more playing time because he’s playing at a very high level on defense.”
Scot Shields was named setup man of the decade by Sports Illustrated, but the veteran right-hander does not appear close to regaining his setup job with the Angels.
That eighth-inning role will likely go to Kevin Jepsen, who had to bail out Shields from an eighth-inning mess in Wednesday’s 5-3 win over the Yankees.
Nine of the last 13 batters Shields faced in his last three outings have reached base, and he has allowed six runs, three earned, in the three games.
Shields’ fastball, in the 93- to 94-mph range before he had season-ending left-knee surgery last June, is a few ticks off, at 91 to 92 mph.
Shields has allowed six runs, three of them earned, in his last three games and has a 10.13 ERA in four games.
With a 5-1 lead Wednesday, Shields walked No. 9 batter Brett Gardner, gave up an infield single to Derek Jeter and a run-scoring single to Nick Johnson at the end of a nine-pitch at-bat. Jepsen came on to snuff out the rally.
“I feel like I’m throwing the ball all right, I just have to locate better,” Shields said. “I’m not throwing as hard as I used to, but I had good movement [Wednesday]. I just couldn’t spot it.”
Asked whether he felt some rust after missing most of 2009, or if it takes time for him to work into his velocity, Shields said, “No, I think everyone slows down.”
Could Shields, the 34-year-old with the so-called “rubber arm,” actually be getting old?
“I’m not getting old,” Shields said. “I am old.”
Maicer Izturis was in the original lineup at third base Thursday but was scratched because of tightness in his throwing shoulder. . . . Reggie Willits started in left field, but Scioscia said Juan Rivera is sound and got the day off before playing three games on Toronto’s artificial turf this weekend.
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