More upright Napoli banging homers
Catcher using stance he emulated as Florida youngster
ANAHEIM -- Mike Napoli grew up in Florida admiring Darryl Strawberry and his titanic shots. With an adjustment at the plate, going to a more upright stance, Napoli took a page out of Straw's book on hitting.
The results -- booming solo homers in two of his three starts behind the plate in Minnesota -- have been Strawberry-esque as well.
"I've been standing a little taller up there, and it's working out for me," Napoli said. "I was so crouched down, I was cutting myself off on my swing. I wasn't feeling comfortable.
"I also started to put my hands back where they were when I first came up, in 2006 -- cocked. That helped, too. Basically, I'm trying not to have so much movement, to be as quiet as I can be up there. It's all about getting comfortable."
The transformation began, he said, about midway through Spring Training in conjunction with hitting coach Mickey Hatcher in Arizona.
"I started hitting a lot of line drives and stuck with it," Napoli said. "Hitting in the crouch, I was getting too much uppercut in my swing."
Napoli had 16 homers and 42 RBIs in 99 games in his rookie year of 2006, but two trips to the disabled list (left shin, right hamstring) limited him to 42 second-half at-bats. He finished with 10 homers and 34 RBIs in 75 games.
A selective hitter with light-tower power, Napoli can drive balls out of any park. His first homer in Minnesota on Tuesday night was well beyond the 408-foot mark in center, reaching about five rows deep in the seats. The second, on Thursday, was a shot to left that disappeared, about 20 rows deep, in a heartbeat.
It proved to be the difference in a 5-4 victory that gave the Angels three of the four games.
Just as important as his offense, Napoli has guided Jered Weaver, Jon Garland and Ervin Santana through solid starts. Jeff Mathis caught Joe Saunders' gem on Wednesday. Napoli was back at work on Friday night with Dustin Moseley getting the assignment against the Rangers in the home opener.
"We have confidence in all our guys," Napoli said. "They can get the job done."
Napoli was impressed with Santana's demeanor on Thursday as he delivered five shutout innings before a two-run sixth ended his day. A return to his 2006 form, when Santana won 16 games, would go a long way toward alleviating the indefinite loss of Kelvim Escobar (labrum tear in the right shoulder), with John Lackey (strained triceps) on course to return in early May.
"Ervin looked confident and had a real good tempo," Napoli said. "He was throwing gas. That was good for him -- and us. It builds confidence."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.