Napoli’s Season Over After Suffering Serious Knee Injury
Bob Toth | On 22, Apr 2018
When Mike Napoli signed a minor league deal with the Indians during spring training, it was thought that he could be a valuable clubhouse presence in camp and even an insurance policy if the team needed some right-handed pop or a replacement for Yonder Alonso or Edwin Encarnacion for some reason during the year.
Instead, Napoli’s season is over, and there is a chance that his career could be, too.
The 36-year-old slugger suffered a serious knee injury while playing for the Indians’ Triple-A Columbus Clippers affiliate on Tuesday in Pawtucket in a game against the Red Sox. While chasing a foul ball deep down the first base line, he fell when running over the on-the-field bullpen mounds and crumpled to the ground, immediately clutching at his right knee.
The Indians announced on Friday morning that Napoli had suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee while also tearing the meniscus. Season-ending surgery will be needed to repair the injury, but it cannot be performed yet due to swelling in the knee.
Napoli was already in an unfamiliar situation playing back at the minor league level. He had played just ten games in the minors in the previous ten years and with eight games of action in 2018, it accounted for his longest service on the farm since 2006, when he appeared in 21 games at Salt Lake City during the same season that he made his Major League debut with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Napoli was coming off of another power-packed season at the plate, but some significant declines in his peripheral stats, his increased age, and a clogged up first base/DH market around Major League Baseball led to him remaining a free agent until February 28, when he was signed by the Indians to a minor league deal with a spring camp invite. He did not make the club, as was largely expected, and he was allowed to look around for some other options in the game. Instead, he elected to return to the Cleveland organization while keeping himself game ready, in the event the Indians or another club called for his services.
Last season with the Texas Rangers in his third stint with the organization (2011-12, 2015), Napoli slashed .193/.285/.428 with eleven doubles, 29 homers, and 66 RBI in 124 games. Along with the notably low numbers at the plate, he added 163 strikeouts over the course of the year.
In 1,392 career MLB games, he owns a .246/.346/.475 slash at the plate with 267 career home runs. He was a 17th round draft pick by the Angels in the 2000 draft and he spent much of the early days of his career as a catcher before transitioning to first base due to a degenerative condition in both of his hips. In addition to his time with the Indians, Angels, and Rangers, he spent parts of three seasons with the Boston Red Sox from 2013 to 2015, winning a World Series with the club in his first year there.
In his eight games with the Columbus Clippers this season, he was just 1-for-24 (.042) at the plate with a homer and four RBI. His slump had reached 21 straight hitless at bats, including his final two at bats during the Clippers’ season opener on April 6 in Indianapolis against the Indians. He went 1-for-5 in that game, hitting a grand slam during Columbus’ nine-run sixth inning.
If his playing career has come to an end, he went out in grand fashion.
Photo: The Canadian Press