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This just in: Mike Napoli will not start 162 games this season

05.17.13 at 9:24 pm ET
By

Mike Napoli

MINNEAPOLIS — Heading into Friday, Mike Napoli led the American League in two categories. One was doubles. The other?

Prior to the series opener at Target Field, Napoli was one of 12 American League players who had played all 41 games.

“That was probably my longest stretch of games in a row of my career,” he said.

Thursday, however, the first baseman was informed by Red Sox manager John Farrell that the streak of starts would be coming to an end and Friday was to be Napoli’s first day off of the season.

He had entered Minnesota coming off a series against the Rays going 1-for-11. But this was more about maintenance than production. In fact, if it was up to the player, the streak would still be trucking along.

“I still feel good. I don’t even have to look at the lineup, I’m just in there. I’m prepared to play every day,” he said. “John came to me and let me know I would have the day off today so mentally I know I wasn’t going to play today, so that was a different feeling.

“Knowing I’m going to be in there every day, when I go home I know it’s going to be the same routine. But my body feels good. It feels fine. Playing first base is such a different feel, mentally and physically.”

Napoli explained that his new lot in life has a lot to do with a desire to join teammates Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury in maintaining a perfect attendance record this season. For the most part, he has lived up to expectations, totaling 34 RBI and more extra-base hits (26) than any player in the majors.

“Mentally it’s unbelievable,” said Napoli regarding the position switch. “I’m not going through the pitchers’ meeting. I’m not going through the game-calling situations. I’m not worrying about how I have to view each pitcher when they’re on the mound. You’re just mentally free. You’re just tackling baseball. It’s so different.”

He did point out that even when catching was part of his existence, such offensive downturns as he experienced in St. Petersburg weren’t an immediate result of whatever he was doing in the field. For that, he credits his former minor-league manager in the Angels’ farm system, Keith Comstock.

“He would always make me take a deep breath,” Napoli said. “If I came in and struck out, he always told me to take a deep breath and lead it go. He would be like, ‘You take a big, deep breath, blow it out, and it’s gone.’ I still do it now. I’ll be pissed off with an at-bat, I’ll take a deep breath, let it go and it’s time for defense.

“It was easy for me separate my defense and offense. When you’re catching, you can’t go behind the plate when you’re struggling hitting and bring that into catching. I was taught at a young age to be able to separate the two. For me, when it’s not going so good, I understand it’s part of baseball but you just try and minimize it.”

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