To fully take advantage of his light tower power and uncommon plate discipline, Napoli knows he has to upgrade his defense, which suffered in 2009."If I catch good," he said, "that'll keep me on the field." Scioscia will be watching carefully for progress as he does his annual tutorials. "Jeff and Mike look in terrific shape," Scioscia said. "Going down with Bobby, Ryan Budde, Hank, we're excited about some of our younger guys." Napoli has watched his catcher's ERA rise the past three seasons. He took a while to find his comfort zone behind the plate last season after recovering from the shoulder issues, but his defense was inconsistent.
Pressing isn't confined to swinging a bat or throwing strikes. It also can apply to defense."That probably fits under that guideline a little bit -- pressing, however you want to define it," Scioscia said. "As far as his stance and his setup, he was literally fighting himself, almost trying too hard to do something instead of taking a step back and letting his talent get out there. He was trying to force some things that I think set him back a little bit. "You get in the way of yourself, really. He gradually got away from the things that were important to a pitcher back behind the plate. Not that he wasn't in the game mentally -- he was in the game. He started to fight himself a little bit, and I think he lost a little bit of confidence." Hoping to get a better handle on pitches with late movement, Napoli will be experimenting with a larger glove this spring. The increase is at most an inch, Scioscia said, but it could make a difference. "If a catcher's mitt gets too big and too deep to transfer, your transfer becomes a challenge," Scioscia said. "You still have to be able to control the ball and have a transfer, otherwise you'd see a catcher use something like a first baseman's mitt." A larger glove, if it helps keep Napoli in the lineup, will be appreciated by fans craving the sounds made by the big man's big bat.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.