Napoli takes grounders at third base


ST. LOUIS -- Mike Napoli, out of Boston's Game 3 lineup with David Ortiz playing first base and no DH in a National League park, added something new to his pregame routine Saturday afternoon. Napoli took ground balls at third base from infield coach Brian Butterfield during batting practice.

Manager John Farrell has not mentioned the possibility of moving Napoli to another position, especially one he has played just once in the minor leagues, back in 2002 for the Cedar Rapids Kernels in Class A ball. Farrell has ruled out using Napoli behind the plate, the former catcher having not caught a single inning this season.

Now, position players have been known to take ground balls at another spot during BP, just for a change of pace, but this was clearly being done with a purpose. The most likely explanation is that the Sox were prepping Napoli at the position in case he bats for shortstop Stephen Drew late in the game, and want to keep Will Middlebrooks on the bench so that he, too, would be available to pinch hit. Rookie Xander Bogaerts, who has been playing third, could move to short.

It's hard to imagine that the Sox would consider starting Napoli at third later in the Series; if they had, he would have been taking grounders there before Saturday.