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07/19/08 3:54 PM ET
Halos trying to catch runners off guard
Napoli's return may give Angels added boost behind the plate
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- The Red Sox have been known for their power in recent seasons, but this year, Boston has added a new wrinkle to its offense, as it has been utilizing the stolen base more. The Red Sox have swiped 78 bases this season, which is the second-highest total in the American League. They're running much more than last season, when they stole 96 bases, which was the seventh most in the AL. "If there's an opportunity to take it, they're running more than they have in the past," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think it's the first time in a while they've had the team speed to do this, and I think they're taking advantage of it." And while stealing bases has been a major strength for the Red Sox, the Angels have had the opposite problem, as they've struggled to throw out baserunners. The Angels have allowed 28 straight stolen bases to opponents, dating back to June 17. "It bothers you, for sure," Angels catcher Jeff Mathis said. "But there's nothing you can do about it. You have to go out there and do the same things you've been doing. We've been working on it and trying to get some stuff straightened out with mechanics. I've got it ironed out now." Jacoby Ellsbury and Coco Crisp have been Boston's primary basestealers, as they have 35 and 13 stolen bases, respectively. It's allowed the Red Sox to get more runners in scoring position, where Boston is batting .270 as a team. "These guys still have power in their lineup, for sure," Mathis said. "But it just gets people in scoring position. You've got Crisp and Ellsbury who run all the time, and [Dustin] Pedroia who will run some. If you can get a guy to second and get him in scoring position, with the way they swing it, they're going to score." The Angels will hopefully get a boost at the catcher position soon, as injured catcher Mike Napoli will begin a throwing program on Monday. Napoli has been on the disabled list, retroactive to June 6, because of an inflamed right shoulder. "Mike will start his throwing program, and I would think there would be some rehab games involved," Scioscia said. "[I] just [started] throwing the program, and getting ready to play takes some time. You need to get out and play a little bit, especially with catching to [try] to get your legs and getting some stiffness out." Napoli took batting practice on Friday, because it doesn't hurt him as much to swing. Scioscia said there's no exact timetable for Napoli's return. "Hopefully, it won't take too long," Scioscia said. "I've seen some guys start a throwing program and be back within 10 days. But there's certainly a progression that we're going to take one step at a time."
Rhett Bollinger is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.