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Clubhouse chatter

Noticeable second half allows Napoli to come into plain view

Noticeable second half allows Napoli to come into plain view

August 05, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

oe Napoli is the first to admit he was the Hagerstown Suns' version of The Invisible Man.

"In the first half, I was nonexistent," the Suns outfielder said.

Napoli was here and he got to play, but he wasn't a constant nor did he have an everyday place in the lineup. Hagerstown had three high-profile players in Chris Marrero, Justin Maxwell and Mike Daniel, and Brett McMillan at first, all muscling Napoli out of a consistent position.

"I can't complain about the first half," Napoli said. "(Manager Tommy Herr) found a way to give me a lot of at-bats. It was all up to me."

But life became a lot easier - and more consistent - on June 11, when those four place stealers were promoted to Potomac. Now, Napoli has become a mainstay in the middle of the Suns' second-half lineup.

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"All players will tell you that when you play every day, you start to play well and are comfortable when you go up (to bat)," Napoli said.

His comfort zone is evident.

He went on a hitting tear during the first road trip of the second half and parlayed the start into becoming the Suns' player of the month for July for hitting .310 with six home runs and 17 RBIs. In fact, Napoli is hitting .308 with seven home runs and 21 RBIs since the All-Star break.

But Napoli's contributions are no surprise to Herr.

"He was a late-round pick, so they are always the extra guy while the prospects get their playing time and moves in when the other guys get moved up," Herr said. "I've liked him from Day 1 at spring training. The way he was swinging the bat, I knew he would DH for us a lot. We had to get his bat into the lineup.

"Now, in the state of our club, he is a main middle-of-the-lineup guy. I can't say enough good things about him."

Now, Napoli is finding ample time and places to play. He has played first base but now spends most of his time in right and left field.

"I like it," Napoli said. "Playing all over raises my value."

And it has him scheming a little.

"I keep pulling on shirttails to play center," Napoli said. "That would raise my confidence and raise my value more."

That's what happens when The Invisible Man becomes visible.

Moving company

The injury bug continues to reside in the Suns' clubhouse.

Hagerstown presently has three pitchers - Dan Pfau, Yunior Novoa and Don Levinski - on the disabled list.

Pfau was placed on the shelf July 19 with a tear in his rotator cuff, while Novoa got some time off because of shoulder soreness on July 25. Levinski moved to the disabled list Tuesday with shoulder stiffness.

To replace Novoa, the Suns received Brad Meyers from the Gulf Coast League. Meyers is a right-handed pitcher who was drafted in the fifth round in this year's draft. The 21-year-old played at Loyola Marymount before being selected.

Meyers pitched five innings and allowed three hits Tuesday for the Suns, collecting the win in Hagerstown's 3-2 victory over Augusta. Before coming to Hagerstown, Meyers pitched three games for the Gulf Coast League Nationals, allowing two hits in nine innings of work.

The Suns filled out their roster Friday when they received outfielder Tony Blanco from the Gulf Coast League. Blanco, 25, was originally signed as an nondrafted free agent by Boston in 1998 and became a Rule 5 pick of the Nationals from Cincinnati in 2005.

Blanco played for Double-A Harrisburg and Single-A Potomac in 2006. He was hitting .280 in the GCL with a homer and two RBI in nine games.

Hey, don't I know you?

When Augusta visited earlier this week, it was a bit of an old home week.

The Suns faced pitcher Mike Musgrave in the second game of Wednesday's doubleheader. Musgrave pitched for the Suns in 2004 when they were part of the San Francisco organization.

Augusta's trip also marked the return of Ross Grimsley, who was the pitching coach for the Suns in 2002.

Catching on

There is something about playing a game of catch.

The Suns know that feeling and are inviting fans attending today's game to come out and play catch on the Municipal Stadium field after the 5:35 p.m. game.

Fans will be allowed to take the field after the Sunday ritual of "Kids Run the Bases."

Suns spots

If you want to see the Suns win, show up for a weekend game. Hagerstown is 11-7 in games played on Saturdays and also 11-7 on Sundays.

The Suns have scored three runs or less in 29 games this season. They were 5-28, 23 games under .500 heading into Saturday's game. The Suns were 42-66 for the season at that point, 24 games under .500.

Bob Parasiliti covers the Hagerstown Suns for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com

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