For the good of the team, however, that’s exactly what Napoli did before Friday’s series opener against the Los Angeles Angels.
Napoli told manager Jeff Banister that playing first base with a stress reaction in his right tibia (shin bone) wasn’t the best use of what he could offer the club. The Rangers began the night five games back of the second AL wild-card berth with 16 games remaining.
“I don’t want to put myself in a situation where I am doing us more harm than good, because I’m trying to go out there and gut it out, and I’m not doing the things I can do when I am healthy. I want us to win,” Napoli said.
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Napoli started Thursday’s game after sitting the previous three. But it was too painful to play, and Ryan Rua replaced him at first base in the seventh.
“We’re going to do what’s best for the team,” he said. If that’s being a pinch-hit option off the bench, so be it, Napoli reasoned. The designated hitter spot is an option, but Adrian Beltre will continue to get most of those with a strained left hamstring.
Meanwhile, center fielder Carlos Gomez’s sprained right ankle is improving, but he’s still a few days away from being an option in the field.
Both he and Napoli will be free agents at season’s end. Gomez isn’t thinking about next season just yet.
“I’m a veteran and I know what I want and what I need,” he said. “I’m going to have time to think about my future after the season. I’m happy to stay here for a long time, but more important right now is to get back to the field as soon as possible.”
Gomez turned down a multiyear offers as a free agent last winter to sign a $10 million, one-year deal with the Rangers. It was, in part, he said, a show of loyalty to the Rangers who “picked me up off the ground when I fell” in 2016. Gomez was released in August 2016 after struggling with the Astros.
“They know and the baseball world knows what I can do. They trusted me and gave me a job last year when I was released,” he said. “The believed in me and they only had one month to get to know me. I’m loyal to that, so I just wanted to come back here to [show that I] appreciated that.”
Gomez has missed 41games with injuries, including a freak cyst on his back and a strained hamstring. The most frustrating part, he said, is not being able to help his teammates the past week.
“I’m positive about my future. I know I’m going to be fine, but I haven’t been doing anything to help my team win,” he said. “We still have a chance. This series is really important.”
Banister has tried to show his respect to his veterans, such as Napoli, who “have given everything they can this year,” he said. “We wanted to give them every opportunity to go out and perform.”
Napoli signed with the Rangers for the third time during the off-season. He’s only missed 12 games because of injury but has struggled at the plate for much of the season. He has 29 homers but is hitting .193, the lowest batting average in his career.
“I haven’t lived up to my expectations. I came in here looking to contribute on a consistent basis and haven’t done that,” he said. “I still love this game and enjoy being here. When the time comes in the off-season, I’ll sit and think what is best for me. I don’t like jumping the gun.”
Rangers manager Jeff Banister discusses the bullpen's inability to hold a two-run lead as the Angels score five in sixth and hold on for 7-6 win Friday night.
AL wild-card standings
Note: Top two teams, marked with x, would make the playoffs if season ended today.
Rangers at Angels
8 p.m. Saturday, FSSW