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With Hanley Ramirez out, opportunity knocks for Mike Napoli, Allen Craig

BOSTON -- With Hanley Ramirez out of the team’s lineup indefinitely after suffering a left shoulder sprain Monday night, two struggling Boston Red Sox hitters will get a better chance to get things going at the plate.

Allen Craig, who replaced Ramirez on Monday night, figures to see his fair share of at-bats in the outfield starting Tuesday, as he’ll play left field and bat sixth for the Red Sox against Tampa Bay Rays left-hander Drew Smyly. Meanwhile, usual No. 6 hitter Mike Napoli will move up to Ramirez’s usual role in the cleanup spot behind David Ortiz, the place in the lineup he primarily occupied over the last two years.

Napoli has hit .159 with two home runs and seven RBIs in 23 games this season, a far cry from the numbers he averaged in his first two seasons with the Red Sox (.254 with 20 home runs and 73 RBIs).

“I think he’s taken better swings of late,” Farrell said. “He’s best when he drives the ball into right-center field. There’s been a couple of occasions over the last three or four games in which he’s squared balls up in that direction. Even some of the balls on the ground have been squared up.”

While Napoli did hit his second home run of the season Sunday night, he’s continued to struggle at the plate recently. The first baseman has just two hits in his last 22 at-bats, along with only walking twice in that span. He has, however, struck out just four times in his last six games, an increase in contact that has Farrell encouraged.

As for Craig, consistent playing time seems to be Boston's best bet to finally get him going offensively. Since coming over to the Red Sox at the trading deadline last season, Craig has hit .133 with two home runs and four RBIs in 49 games. In his five years with the St. Louis Cardinals, Craig’s numbers were much better, hitting .279 along with cracking the 90-RBI mark in both 2012 and 2013.

Craig has hit .146 for the Red Sox this season in a reserve role, something Farrell believes could be the largest reason for his lack of production.

“I thought in spring training he started to show the player he’s been with some consistent at-bats,” Farrell said. “Then you go into a reserve role -- that’s a tough thing for a position player to maintain timing.”

While the Red Sox will hope for more out of Napoli and Craig in the coming days, Farrell isn’t expecting either of them to replace Ramirez. In fact, he hopes that they don't try to do that, instead focusing on their game and how they can best get themselves back on track offensively.

“I think the one thing that we want to be sure of is that because of Hanley’s absence, no one thinks they’ve got to be Hanley,” Farrell said. “Perform to their best abilities. Everyone do their job. Collectively that should make up for the difference there. We’re going to miss an elite bat but it’s not for anyone to try to do more than they’re capable.”

Here’s the Sox lineup as they hope to snap their four-game losing streak against the Rays on Tuesday night:

Mookie Betts, CF

Dustin Pedroia, 2B

Ortiz, DH

Napoli, 1B

Pablo Sandoval, 3B

Craig, LF

Brock Holt, RF

Xander Bogaerts, SS

Blake Swihart, C

Rick Porcello, RHP