By Chuck Richter - Executive Editor
Despite his big bat, Mike Napoli has seen a good share of time on the bench this season in favor of the weaker hitting catcher Jeff Mathis. That could change, however, as Angels Manager Mike Scioscia when asked on Tuesday before the Angels took on the Seattle Mariners who would catch Scott Kazmir's first Angels start, he said that Napoli, not Mathis, would be Kazmir's receiver on Wednesday afternoon vs. Felix Hernandez.
"Nap will catch tomorrow and we'll kind of roll with it to see where we're going with that,” Scioscia said “The one thing with Mike, I think on the defensive side he's catching at a higher level and I think he's getting a little more comfortable in his last seven to ten starts. We're seeing some progress, from everything; from the target to the shifting to the game calling. He was in a funk for a while, but we have a lot of confidence he can do it."
Napoli has a slugging percentage of .501 and with his 17 home runs, which are good for third in the American League among catchers, he has a good shot at surpassing Lance Parrish (22) for most home runs in a single season by an Angels catcher. Napoli, who has 60 career home runs as a catcher and three as a DH, is two shy of surpassing both Parrish and Bengie Molina (61) for most career home runs by an Angels catcher.
While Mathis has been praised for his defensive ability and work with the pitchers, including his ability to frame balls a bit better than Napoli, his bat, even at the bottom of the order, hasn't been productive this season. Mathis enters tonight's contest with a .208 batting average and a slugging percentage of .329. The Orioles’ light-hitting shortstop Cesar Izturis tops that with a .346 slugging percentage.
Scioscia did say, however, that while Napoli seems poised for more starts in September, that could change based on performance on the defensive side.
"We can adjust down from that, but we're going to start with Napoli," he said.
Jeff Mathis is in the starting lineup tonight against rookie Doug Fister.
Tomorrow's starting catcher and battery mate of Kazmir is mired in an 0-15 slump.
Kendry Morales for American League MVP?
Kendry Morales (pictured above) moved up in the order for tonight's contest between the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels, jumping ahead of Juan Rivera, who clubbed his 21st home run of the season last night.
Morales leads the American League with 45 RBI since the All-Star break, including 33 in August, a club record for the month. He’s done most of that damage batting sixth and even seventh against southpaws in the Angels lineup.
"No doubt, absolutely no doubt. If you look at his individual stats and you look at what he’s meant to our team – no doubt.” Scioscia said when asked if Morales deserved consideration for the AL MVP award. “It seems word travels from west to east a little slower in the game of baseball than east to west,” Scioscia said facetiously of media coverage. “You’re kind of swimming upstream. But I think the baseball world knows what Kendry has done.
“When you look at what Kendry has meant to our club, as opposed to what some other candidates have meant to their clubs, I think the only guy (in that category) is really Joe Mauer, who’s having a great year. I know Tex (Mark Teixeira) is having a great year with the Yankees. But if you take Kendry out of our lineup, I think you’re looking at a different offense.”
Morales ranks second in the AL with a .593 slugging percentage and second with 66 extra base hits. (Just as I typed that Morales clubbed yet another double, in the second inning off Fister, upping his slugging percentage a few more notches.)
Mauer of the Twins and Yankees Derek Jeter and ex-Angel Teixeira all have to be considered AL MVP candidates at this stage of the season, as well.
Look for our Scott Kazmir interview, Brandon Wood and his thoughts on friend and ex-teammate Sean Rodriguez, Chone Figgins on his defense at third base and the difference between minor league hitters and major league hitters according to Trevor Bell.
All of that and more a bit later in this edition of Angelswin.com at the yard..