DETROIT — Mike Napoli did not want to go on the disabled list when the Red Sox approached him with the idea on May 15. His preference was to play through the various injuries he had.
“I always feel that way,” Napoli said. “I wanted to find a way to keep playing.”
But Napoli acknowledged it was the right idea. The Red Sox needed a roster spot at the time and Napoli was slumping at the plate because of a swollen left ring finger, the result of a dislocation in April. He also had a sore left hamstring and right calf.
Napoli has felt ready to play for several days but his 15 days on the DL didn't end until Sunday. He’ll be at first base and hit fifth against the Tigers, manager John Farrell said.
“In retrospect, I’m glad they did it. I can actually grip the bat now,” Napoli said. “It was hard to swing the bat before. It was the best thing now that I look back on it. It was tough mentally but I had to do it.”
The statistics reflect that. Napoli hit .302 with a .509 slugging percentage before he injured his finger. He hit .238 with a .366 slugging percentage afterward.
Napoli was at Comerica Park early on Saturday and was hitting balls 350 feet off short tosses from hitting coach Victor Rodriguez.
“The strength is back in his hands, you can see that,” Rodriguez said. “He’s able to control the bat and follow through. There’s a big difference.”
Napoli should improve what has been a weak lineup.
“You’re talking about a guy who had  home runs and  RBIs a year ago,” Farrell said. “That type of production has been missed. Any time you can lengthen out the lineup with another quality hitter, it’s going to be advantageous for us. We’re certainly looking forward to Mike being in that spot.”
Napoli is eager to be part of the solution as the Red Sox try to get back in contention.
“We know we need to play better and I want to do my part,” he said. “I’ll play the game the right way and hopefully it leads to something. We have a lot of guys who were here last year and we know what we need to do.”
The Red Sox optioned outfielder Alex Hassan to Triple A Pawtucket after Saturday’s 8-6 loss to make room for Napoli on the roster
On the move again
Brock Holt started his sixth straight game at first base on Saturday. He will move to left field on Sunday.
Holt has never played the outfield professionally, his experience consisting only of pregame work during the last week.
“I’ll do the best I can. I’m getting a lot of help from the coaches,” Holt said. “If I can stay in the lineup, it’s fine with me. I feel like I’m getting better at it.”
Through Friday, Holt was hitting .314 with a .333 on-base percentage in 15 games batting leadoff and Farrell wants to keep him there.
“Outfield is one area he doesn’t have experience in. Yet we feel his athleticism is going to allow him to play left field,” Farrell said. “It’ll be a learning-on-the-job situation. We like what he’s done in the leadoff spot and the openness to being flexible with the defensive position.”
Farrell remains committed to using Jonny Gomes, particularly against lefthanders.
“We’re certainly not going to turn away from that,” the manager said.
Farrell also suggested that Daniel Nava would stay in the lineup for a few days, presumably in right field. Nava started Saturday against Detroit righthander Max Scherzer and the Sox are scheduled to face righthanders on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.
“There’s going to be some reps coming his way,” Farrell said.
With Holt shifting to the outfield, Grady Sizemore could be squeezed for playing time, if not a roster spot. Sizemore hit fifth and started in right field Saturday but went into the game hitting .223 with a .293 on-base percentage.
Pick has potential
The Red Sox completed their work in the amateur draft with rounds 11-40. Their most interesting selection was their first of the day, righthander Karsten Whitson of the University of Florida.
Whitson was the ninth overall pick of the 2010 draft by the Padres but spurned a $2.1 million offer to play for the Gators.
Whitson was 8-1 with a 2.40 earned run average in 19 starts as a freshman and pitched in the College World Series. But Whitson lasted only two games in the Cape Cod League that summer because of shoulder stiffness.
Whitson started 10 games as a sophomore then missed his junior year after having shoulder surgery. Whitson was 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA this season, pitching in only 14 games.
Whitson still has a fastball in the mid-90s, according to scouting reports, but lacks the secondary pitches he had in high school.
Only 22, Whitson has time to regain what once made him so promising.
The Red Sox selected righthander Bradley Wilpon in the 36th round. He attends The Brunswick School in Connecticut and is the grandson of Mets owner Fred Wilpon and the son of team chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon.
Bradley Wilpon is expected to attend the University of Pennsylvania.
Doubront to Triple A
Felix Doubront, who started a rehabilitation assignment on Tuesday, is scheduled to pitch for Triple A Pawtucket on Tuesday and again next Sunday. The plan is for Doubront to pitch five innings Tuesday then six Sunday. He is on the DL with a shoulder strain . . . Clay Buchholz had his simulated game pushed to Sunday afternoon because the Tigers would not let the mound be used early in the afternoon at the request of Tigers starter Max Scherzer. Buchholz has not faced hitters since May 26. He went on the disabled list two days later . . . The Red Sox named Pawtucket first baseman Travis Shaw the organization’s minor league hitter of the month. He hit .331 with 8 home runs, and 22 RBIs for Portland and Pawtucket. Portland lefthander Henry Owens was the pitcher of the month. He had a 1.51 ERA in six starts. Pawtucket catcher Christian Vazquez was the defensive player of the month.
Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.