For the Cleveland Indians, the party at Napoli’s could once again be coming to an end, perhaps permanently.
During the first inning of Tuesday night’s game between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians’ top affiliate, the Columbus Clippers, first baseman and fan-favorite Mike Napoli suffered what Tribe manager Terry Francona is calling a “significant knee injury.”
On the second pitch of the game, Napoli stumbled over the home plate portion of the Clippers’ on-field bullpen area after giving chase to a foul ball. Unable to leave the field under his own power, he was carted off and underwent an MRI on Wednesday. The diagnosis does not look promising, and some are beginning to speculate that the 36-year-old’s career may be in jeopardy.
Returning to Cleveland
After hitting just .193 with the Rangers in 2017, Napoli received little interest from teams during the off-season. Signed in late February, Napoli came to camp with the understanding that he would likely not make the roster. However, management valued the veteran leadership he displayed during their pennant-winning campaign two years ago and wanted give him a chance to showcase himself to other teams.
He was ultimately cut, but chose to remain with the organization on a minor-league deal. The expectation was that he would be released if an opportunity arose with another team. The Indians also viewed him as potential insurance should either Edwin Encarnacion or Yonder Alonso suffer an injury.
In eight games for the Clippers, Napoli hit .042 (1 for 24) with 1 home run and 4 RBI’s.
Despite spending only one season with Cleveland, Napoli became a fan-favorite and was a key component for a team that very nearly won the World Series. That year, he reached career highs in hits (133), homers (34), and RBI’s (101).
If this is indeed the end, Napoli will conclude his 12-year career with a .246 average, 1,125 hits, 267 home runs, and 744 RBI.
He played in the 2012 All-Star Game as a member of the Angels. Additionally, he appeared in the fall classic twice, winning in 2013 with the Boston Red Sox.