LOS ANGELES — Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli revealed Saturday that he had an injection in his left foot a week ago that has alleviated much of the pain he was experiencing because of plantar fasciitis.
The question now is whether Napoli can be a productive player over the final 31 games of the season. That he was 3 for 4 with an RBI in a 4-2 victory against the Dodgers was certainly a positive sign.
Napoli was in the starting lineup for the first time since Aug. 16. He came into the game hitting .206 since July 1 with a .743 OPS. Since Aug. 1, the first baseman was hitting .146. The three-hit game was his first since June 1. Napoli also nimbly completed a double play in the first inning, grabbing a line drive and touching the bag before Yasiel Puig could get back.
“I know I have to pick it up. Nobody realizes that more than I do,” Napoli said. “I’ve done everything I can to figure it out.”
The foot injury has been a factor. The cortisone injection required several days of inactivity.
“The shot helped. Before then it was like stepping on an ice pick. There was a lot of pain,” Napoli said. “I’ve never dealt with something like that before. The trainers were doing everything they could to help me.”
Napoli said his foot started bothering him about a month ago. It bothered him the most when he tried to run.
“It’s been a grind,” he said. “I feel like it’s getting better now and I’ll be able to play. My plan is to play as often as I can. Right now I feel like I can do that.”
Napoli has tried to focus on his overall statistics — he’s second on the team in homers and third in RBIs.
“I feel like I’ve helped the team. We’re in first place and I’ve contributed to that,” he said. “I know how it works, that what you’ve done lately is what people look at. But the season isn’t over yet, either. I feel better lately and that’s going to help.”
Napoli is confident the Red Sox will finish strong and that he will play a role in that.
“My goal is to get to the postseason. My personal numbers don’t really matter at this point. I’m not looking at that. If I can finish strong and help us win, that’s really all I care about right now. At the end of the day, if we win and get in the playoffs, I’ll be happy.”
Manager John Farrell said that once the Red Sox return to American League games, Napoli will be his first baseman with Daniel Nava and Mike Carp filling in on occasion.
“To come back and have three hits, it’s been quite a while since he’s had three hits in a game. I think the rest has done him well,” Farrell said.
First hit for Bogaerts
Xander Bogaerts entered the game on a double-switch in the eighth inning and got to the plate in the ninth. He collected his first career hit with a single off Brandon League.
“Hopefully a lot of people from Aruba saw it and hopefully the first of many more,” Bogaerts said.
Bogaerts got the ball to keep as a souvenir. “Better now than next year,” Farrell said.
With Bogaerts on first base and one out, Jacoby Ellsbury grounded to first base. AdrianGonzalez threw to second for the force and there was no return throw. But Ellsbury walked back toward the dugout after taking his hit helmet off. Hanley Ramirez came from shortstop to tag him.
“Yes,” Farrell said when asked whether Ellsbury lost track of how many outs there were. Ellsbury was not so quick to acknowledge his obvious mistake.
“I just peeled off and I started walking back and saw Hanley run at me. I still thought I had a base,” he said. “Either way, I thought I was safe.”
When pressed, Ellsbury admitted he lost track of the outs. “For a split-second,” he said.
The play didn’t cost the Red Sox, at least. “It’s nice that it was 1-2-3 in the [bottom of the] ninth,” Ellsbury said.
Buchholz at work
Clay Buchholz will pitch for Single A Lowell on Sunday against Hudson Valley in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. He is scheduled for three innings and 45-50 pitches.
The next step in his minor league rehab assignment would be on Friday at an affiliate to be determined. Double A Portland and Triple A Pawtucket are both home that night.
Once Buchholz makes two starts in the minors, the Red Sox will determine whether he returns to the majors. That game, on Sept. 4, could be contingent on whether any affiliates are in the postseason.
“There’s always a possibility to bring him back [to the majors] then,” said Farrell, noting that with expanded rosters a short start would be easy to cover. “We’d be open-minded to him starting and going only four innings. If they’re going to be four quality innings, I’d rather they be here.”
Buchholz has been on the disabled list since June 9 with a shoulder injury. He is 9-0 with a 1.71 earned run average and made the All-Star team.
When Napoli collected an infield hit off Brian Wilson in the eighth inning, it was a clash of two notable beards. “I got a hit. Did my beard win?” Napoli asked . . . Will Middlebrooks has taken some ground balls at first base but there are no plans to have him start any games there . . . The Sox could activate lefthander Matt Thornton off the DL on Sunday. He has been out with an oblique strain since Aug. 5 . . . Reliever Daniel Bard remains on the 40-man roster but hasn’t pitched since May 15 because of control problems and has been at the team complex in Florida since being taken off the Portland roster. Farrell knew of no plans for Bard to pitch in a game and acknowledged there was little chance he would return to the majors this season.Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.