Napoli sits at start, enters in seventh

HOUSTON -- Slumping Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli had been given a day off on Wednesday, but ended up entering the game as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Napoli took the field at first base to replace right fielder Shane Victorino, who was ejected in the top of the seventh when David Ortiz was at bat. Mike Carp, who had taken Napoli’s usual spot at first base and No. 5 slot in the batting order, moved from first to right field.

Napoli was hitting just .122 over his last 11 games and .203 since the All-Star break entering Thursday. Napoli popped out to first base in the top of the eighth inning, and he's hitless in his last 15 at-bats.

Before the game, Red Sox manager John Farrell explained the decision to sit Napoli.

“He needed some focused work to try to reproduce that more direct bat path through the point of contact,” Farrell said. “He’s been grinding lately, but we felt like the extra work was needed so we gave him a day off his feet.”

Earlier on Wednesday afternoon, Napoli was one of the first Red Sox players in the batting cage before the rest of the team took the field. Napoli worked with hitting coach Greg Colbrunn and assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez in an individual hitting session.

“Right now, he’s grinding, and as a result, his swing has gotten a little bit longer at times, and he’s having to commit to above-average velocity,” Farrell said.

Farrell said Napoli’s previous hip injury has not played a significant factor in his cold streak and acknowledged that Napoli has had patches of streakiness throughout his big-league career.

“Based on what he’s done to date, in many categories, he’s either right on or not far off of what we anticipated,” Farrell said.

Since his 2006 debut with the Angels, the 31-year-old Napoli has a lifetime batting average of .257 (slightly above his current .250 average) and has a career slugging percentage of .444.

His power hitting has dipped a bit this season, as his career 162-game average is 31 home runs and 87 RBIs, whereas he currently stands at 14 homers and 64 RBIs.

When asked if he would consider moving Napoli out of the fifth spot in the lineup, Farrell declined to give a direct answer.

“That’s something I’m going to talk with Mike about before we get into it,” Farrell said.