April 20: The Indians announced that Napoli has a torn ACL and meniscus in his right knee that will require season-ending surgery. The procedure comes with an estimated recovery time of anywhere from 10 to 14 months, per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter link).
April 18: The Indians announced that veteran first baseman Mike Napoli suffered a “significant” right knee injury while playing with their Triple-A club in Columbus last night. He’s expected to miss an “extended amount of time,” per the team, though specifics of his timeline or the nature of the injury remain unclear.
Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer quotes Indians skipper Terry Francona in relaying that Napoli was injured when chasing down a foul pop early in the game (Twitter link). The injury sounds grim, as MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian adds that Francona suggested that if this proves to be the end of Napoli’s playing career, he has the ability to “make an impact” on the game in his post-playing days.
The 36-year-old Napoli signed a minor league contract with Cleveland this offseason and agreed to report to Triple-A when he didn’t make the club in Spring Training. He’s gotten off to a 1-for-24 start, though his lone hit was a home run and he’s also drawn seven walks.
Napoli was a fan favorite virtually everywhere he’s played later in his career and was especially popular in his first stint with Cleveland in 2016, when he hit .239/.335/.465 with 34 homers and helped the Indians reach the World Series. His 2017 season with the Rangers wasn’t as successful, as he posted a more tepid .193/.285/.428 slash with a career-worst 33.6 percent strikeout rate.