06/18/10 2:40 PM ET
Napoli settles in at first base for Halos
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
"Mike's going to get a lot of looks at first," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We have some depth at the catching position which is going to let us use his versatility at first and contribute offensively. We'll probably mix in some other guys, but we'll try to keep his bat in the lineup."
Napoli's power potential is especially critical with the loss of first baseman Kendry Morales, the club's most productive offensive weapon, for the season after surgery on his lower left leg.
Napoli made one polished dig of a throw in the dirt behind Pineiro in the first inning of Wednesday's 5-1 win against the Brewers at Angel Stadium and celebrated with a solo homer to right-center in the bottom half of the inning. It was No. 11 for Napoli, matching Morales for the club lead.
"I'm feeling more comfortable the more I play down there," Napoli said. "It had been a long time -- about four years -- since I played first, so it felt a little strange at first. My first throw [an error on a toss to Scott Kazmir covering first] was just a matter of not being used to making that play. The more reps I get, the better I feel."
In semi-regular playing time, Napoli has unloaded 20 homers each of the past two seasons. His ratio of one career homer per 5.7 games played is the best among active catchers, ahead of Jorge Posada's one per 6.1 games played.
"No doubt he has the potential for 30 homers with 550, 600 plate appearances," Scioscia said.
Mathis makes long-awaited return
CHICAGO -- On a bright, very warm Friday afternoon in the franchise's first visit to venerable Wrigley Field to face the Cubs in Interleague Play, the injury-riddled Angels finally got some positive news. Jeff Mathis was cleared to return to duty behind home plate in the series opener after missing two months with a hairline fracture of his right wrist.
"I'm good to go," Mathis said, having tested his hand in Triple-A Salt Lake against Pacific Coast League competition for two weeks. "I had one incident where I jammed the thumb and missed three games for precautionary reasons.
"My [hitting] stroke feels good. I'm still fighting a little for that timing, but for the most part, I like where I am and hope I can pick up where I left off when I got hurt."
Playing at an All-Star level offensively and defensively when his right hand got in the way of a pitch in the dirt against the Tigers, Mathis was batting .324 with a .500 slugging percentage. This was a continuance of his eruption last postseason, when he batted .538 against the Red Sox and Yankees.
Mathis said one of the highlights of his rehab assignment was watching highlights of backup Bobby Wilson's brilliant performance in Wednesday's 5-1 win against the Brewers, when he bashed a three-run homer, his first in the Majors, and extended his record to 9-1 in games started behind the plate in guiding Joel Pineiro to a strong effort.
"I was jumping up and down when I saw Bobby go deep," Mathis said. "He's paid his dues, and it's good to see him doing such a good job."
Aybar optimistic he'll be back soon
CHICAGO -- Erick Aybar said he hasn't heard the dreaded words "disabled list" from anyone in Angels management, and the shortstop plans to do everything he can to be back on the field soon after suffering damage in his left meniscus on a slide by the Brewers' Casey McGehee on Monday night.
"I feel good," Aybar said, adding that it's "not 100 percent yet." There is some residual soreness he hopes to work out so he'll be able to "go ahead and play my game, keep moving."
The Angels have Brandon Wood at shortstop for now, with Maicer Izturis on the 15-day disabled list with an ill-timed left forearm strain.
An MRI of Aybar's left knee revealed what was described as "meniscus damage," with a reference to cartilage disturbance. But the good news was that nothing was mentioned about a tear, and according to Aybar, "they said the ligament's good, everything's good."
Manager Mike Scioscia said the club feels "very optimistic the last few days ... with how the ligaments responded. The report from Dr. [Lewis] Yocum was very clear as far as the ligaments were intact. The cartilage got banged up a little bit.
"Hopefully, he's just a little banged up. Shortstop is a position, outside of catching, that's probably the most demanding on the field as far as agility, diving and getting up to make plays. As far as the progress he's made the last few days, we're very encouraged. We're not going to know where he is until the next few days."
Halos sign compensation picks, one more
CHICAGO -- The Angels announced the signings Friday of three selections in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, including a pair of compensation picks after the first round.
Shortstop Taylor Lindsey, from Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, Ariz., and center fielder Ryan Bolden of Madison (Miss.) Central High School agreed to terms. Lindsey, a 6-foot, 185-pound left-handed hitter, was the No. 37 overall pick. Bolden, 6-foot-3 and 185 pound and a right-hander batter who throws left, arrived three choices later. Both are 18 years old.
Also signed was left-handed pitcher Aaron Meade, a 10th-round pick and No. 324 overall. At 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, Meade is 22, from Missouri State.
Angels third baseman Kevin Frandsen was rewarded for his hot hitting (.368 in 57 at-bats) with a promotion to the No. 2 spot in the order on Friday at Wrigley Field between Howard Kendrick and Bobby Abreu. It's the first time Frandsen has hit higher than seventh. ... Hideki Matsui entered the series with a .526 career average in 19 at-bats against the Cubs, with two homers and seven RBIs. He was in the lineup, batting fifth, for the series opener and figures to play again on Sunday against right-hander Carlos Zambrano if he makes it through Friday's game in good shape. Southpaw Ted Lilly goes on Saturday for Chicago, which should have Juan Rivera in left. ... Angels center fielder Torii Hunter makes no secret of his enjoyment of Interleague Play with the fresh challenges and environments it provides. Hunter's career numbers against the National League reflect his attitude, and it is shared by teammate Bobby Abreu. Hunter and Abreu are among six active players with at least 125 runs scored and RBIs in Interleague competition, joining Alex Rodriguez, former Angels star Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Jason Giambi. Abreu entered Friday second to A-Rod in runs scored with 141 and has 133 RBIs against the NL. Hunter has 125 runs, 131 RBIs coming into the weekend series against the Cubs. ... Hunter entered Friday third in the American League in RBIs since April 28 with 39. ... The Angels' 16-6 record since May 25 was tied for the best in the Majors. Since May 14, they lead the AL at 22-11. They had won of their past 12 road games. ... Thursday's off-day provided a much-needed breather. The Angels had played on 33 of the previous 34 days.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.