MLB Baseball

Ex-Indians slugger Napoli to have season-ending knee surgery

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

By TOM WITHERS

AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) Former Indians slugger Mike Napoli will have season-ending knee surgery after getting hurt in the minors.

Napoli tore his right anterior cruciate ligament this week while playing for Triple-A Columbus. He will have the operation once the swelling goes down, and the Indians say that could take two weeks.

The injury is career threatening for the 36-year-old, who had his best season in 2016 when he helped lead the Indians to the World Series. Napoli set career highs with 34 homers and 101 RBIs for Cleveland and was invaluable as a clubhouse leader for manager Terry Francona.

Francona believes Napoli still has a future in baseball, in spite of the injury.

"You don't wish that on anybody," Francona said before the Indians faced the Orioles in Baltimore. "I do think he's smart enough to know that once he gets through this disappointment, he's going to impact somebody, somewhere. Hope it's here.

"As good a player as he was, he might impact the game more in his second career. I'm not saying he's done playing, but if he chooses to start to be on this side of the field, my guess is he's going to be even better than he was as a player."

Francona said Napoli just might have his choice of jobs.

"He's one of those guys with a skill set, whether it's as a hitting instructor, manager, third base coach, he could probably do whatever he wants," Francona said. "Even when he was in Triple-A, he said part of the reason he was there was to just to learn. I think he's smart enough to keep his eyes open and he's always listening."

The Indians signed Napoli to a minor league deal this winter and brought him to training camp. But Cleveland didn't have a roster spot for him after signing first baseman Yonder Alonso as a free agent.

Napoli played with Texas last season and won a World Series ring with Boston in 2013.

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Updated April 20, 2018

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