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April 15, 2013

Napoli's power, production vs. lefties crucial

(Continued)

The Red Sox especially need Napoli’s strong production against lefties because the team has struggled against southpaws early on, batting just .213 (29 for 136) with only a .287 on-base percentage.

Napoli has a career .378 on-base percentage with a .902 slugging percentage vs. southpaws.

His tee work and batting practice should help his repetition and muscle memory so he better controls his body during his swings.

“And keeping my head on the ball is going to make me see it better,” Napoli added.

The first baseman has batted cleanup in all 11 games so far, but he likely will shift to fifth in the order once DH David Ortiz (Achilles) is activated from the disabled list.

Ortiz, although a left-handed batter, has hit southpaws well each of the past two seasons, including a .320 average and .377 on-base percentage last season.

With both Ortiz and Napoli producing together in the middle of the order, that should result in Boston becoming much tougher to pitch around and better vs. lefty starters.

Napoli said Ortiz obviously will change the dynamic of the offense.

“He’s David Ortiz,” Napoli said. “He’s one of the greatest hitters. Having him in the lineup is definitely going to change things. But I think we’ve held our own.

“We’ve got a lot of good hitters, a lot of veteran hitters who understand,” Napoli said. “This is an unselfish team. So we’re going to do everything it takes to produce runs and do the little things. You can’t have individuals out there trying to pad their numbers. You have to sacrifice your at-bats for the team. When you get nine guys to do that, you’re going to produce and score runs.”

Overall, the offense has held its own with some lengthy at-bats and timely hitting. Sox hitters have done the job without Ortiz probably better than many envisioned they would.

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