CHICAGO — When he reaches base, Mike Napoli usually takes off his batting gloves and holds them in his fists. It’s a habit designed to protect his hands when he slides.
“It kind of forces your hands to stay up,” he said. “I’ve always done that.”
Napoli also avoids sliding head-first, another way he tries to avoid injury. It has worked over the years, too. Even when he was a full-time catcher, Napoli avoided broken fingers.
But when Napoli drew a walk in the ninth inning against the White Sox Tuesday night, he kept his gloves on because it was bitterly cold at US Cellular Field.
When White Sox reliever Donnie Veal threw a curveball in the dirt to A.J. Pierzynski, Napoli took off for second base. Chicago catcher Tyler Flowers recovered quickly and made a strong throw. Napoli, desperate to get to the base with the game tied, flung himself head-first.
The result was a dislocated left ring finger. Sprawled in the dirt — safe at least — Napoli looked down and his finger was pointing sideways.
The injury kept Napoli out of the lineup in Wednesday night’s 6-4 win in 14 innings, but he doesn’t expect to be out for long.
“Hopefully I’ll play [Thursday]. It’s just a question of being able to hold the bat,” said Napoli, who had his ring finger taped to his little finger Tuesday. “I could play defense with it fine I think.”
Umpire Jim Joyce, seeing Napoli’s finger, motioned for the Red Sox trainers. In the dugout, manager John Farrell feared the worst.
“At first glance I was worried he’d be out four weeks,” Farrell said. “Mike usually hops right back up when he slides.”
Said Napoli: “I didn’t know what was going on, whether it was broken or dislocated. I just knew it hurt.”
When Napoli got back to the clubhouse, one of the Chicago team doctors had to cut Napoli’s batting glove off so an X-ray could be administered.
“The doc asked me if I could pull my glove off and I said, ‘Can I pull my glove off? Are you [kidding] me? How do you want me to do that?’ ”
Daniel Nava started at first base Tuesday night. Napoli’s status is a matter of pain tolerance.
“There hasn’t been a prescribed number of days,” Farrell said.
Waiting to rehab
Shane Victorino is ready to start his minor league injury rehabilitation assignment. All he needs now is a place to play.
Victorino was supposed to join Double A Portland Tuesday but the Sea Dogs were postponed by inclement weather Tuesday and Wednesday.
Portland and Triple A Pawtucket are on the road Thursday. Pawtucket starts a homestand at McCoy Stadium Friday and that is what the Sox are shooting for.
Victorino has been out all season with a strained right hamstring.
Will Middlebrooks, who is on the disabled list with a strained right calf, did some running during batting practice. He hopes to start his rehabilitation assignment this weekend or early next week.
“It’s getting better every day. It’s a matter of being able to run full speed,” Middlebrooks said. “Working on it.”
Farrell finedMajor League Baseball fined Farrell $2,500 for remarks he made Sunday that were sharply critical of the new replay system.
Farrell had a choice of paying MLB or contributing to the Baseball Assistance Team. He picked the charity.
Farrell is hoping that his comments and the attention they received prove helpful to baseball refining a system that officials readily admit needs work.
“I do know that with anything that is new and as substantial as this system, you would think there’s going to be some adjustments as we live it,” Farrell said. “I’m sure there’s a lot being discussed.”
Farrell is satisfied his concerns were heard.
“There’s a lot of smart people that are involved and everyone involved cares deeply about how we improve the game,” he said. “If adjustments are deemed necessary, the proper ones will be made.”
Koji Uehara threw 34 pitches in the bullpen and will be available Thursday night.
The closer felt discomfort in his right shoulder in New York Friday and was sent back to Boston for an exam that included an MRI. Tests were negative.
Uehara last pitched on April 9 and the Sox felt he needed a side session before getting back into a game.
“Good work today,” Farrell said. “He felt good coming out of it physically and with each throwing session he gains confidence in how he feels physically.”
Honored to be thereOrioles manager Buck Showalter told reporters in Baltimore that his team is happy to be at Fenway Park for four games starting Friday and looks forward to the ceremonies around the Boston Marathon a year after the bombings.
“I think especially this year, with what that day means to our country and to Boston, I think it’s an honor to be there for that. I really do,” Showalter said.
“Regardless of the competitive part of it I think we all consider it an honor to be lucky enough to have the schedule fall that way. We’re all looking forward to paying the respect due there.”
The Sox are Orioles have a 7:05 game Sunday night, the result of ESPN picking up the game, then the traditional 11:05 a.m. Patriots Day game Monday.