Former Angel Mike Napoli says he's happy in Texas -- but there's a catch
"They gave me the opportunity to be in the big leagues," he said. "So I'm thankful for that. I learned a lot of things over there."
Apparently he didn't learn enough to satisfy Manager Mike Scioscia, though. An all-star behind the plate in his playing days, Scioscia is admittedly tough on catchers as a manager. So while Napoli hit as least 20 home runs in each of the last three season, leading the Angels with 26 last season, he never got the vote of confidence -- or the playing time -- he wanted.
So when Napoli publicly thanked the Angels on Wednesday it was no surprise he did so while wearing a Texas Rangers uniform.
"It's weird to see him in a different uniform," said Dan Haren, Wednesday's Angels starter. "He's been an Angel for so long."
And even though he was on his best behavior before facing his old team for the first time, Napoli still managed to get off a subtle reference to the Angels' criticism of his defense.
"I'm just trying to bring my skills to another level," he said. "I'm still working hard, working on my defense a lot."
Scioscia answered that by cranking up the running game with the Angels stealing three bases against Napoli in the first four innings. One of those base stealers was slow-footed catcher Jeff Mathis, Napoli's former roommate, who has seven stolen bases in 333 regular-season games.
Napoli had difficulty hiding his disappointment over a lack of playing time early last season, so it seemed to be just a matter of time before the Angels sent him packing. He landed first in Toronto, where he was part of the January deal that brought Vernon Wells to Anaheim. Four days later the rebuilding Blue Jays sent him on to Texas.
A 17th-round pick of the Angels in the 2000 draft, the 29-year-old Napoli had known no other organization until two months ago. And he admits it took him a while to get acclimated to the Rangers.
"The first week I was here it was real weird. I looked at everyone in this clubhouse in a different way than I do now," he said. "I'm a part of them now. I’m just trying to get to know everybody. The guys are awesome. Everyone gets along.
"It’s pretty much like a close-knit family. I'm really enjoying it."
-- Kevin Baxter in Surprise, Ariz.
Photo: Mike Napoli. Credit: Ron T. Ennis / MCT.