FORT MYERS, Fla. – Mike Napoli made his debut at JetBlue Park Sunday afternoon, arriving carrying a Texas Rangers equipment bag and first baseman’s glove after driving over from Fort Lauderdale.
After playing a light game of catch with John Lackey, Napoli discussed the condition of his hips, which were diagnosed with possessing Avascular necrosis (AVN).
The catcher-turned-first baseman said that other than some time immediately after the diagnosis, the condition has not interrupted his preparation.
“I don’t have any symptoms,” he said. “I went through a physical and they checked out my hip and they found I had AVN. It’s something I don’t feel. I’m on medicine now. I have an MRI coming up to see how everything is and just go from there. Just take it day by day and see what happens. I’ve been hitting, throwing, doing everything, working out. I was doing everything before I found out I had it. We took a little step back, staying off impact for a while, see what that does and just go from there.”
Napoli said that while the condition – which was diagnosed after he had agreed to a three-year, $39 million deal with the Red Sox on Dec. 33 – threw some uncertainty his way, there wasn’t any sense that he would be landing with a different club.
“No, because we never really squashed anything,” said Napoli when asked if he believed another team would lock up his services during the 51 days between Red Sox agreements. “They always expressed they want me here. We never lost contact. We just had to figure out what the problem was and what was going on in my hips. It never [entered] my mind I wasn’t going to be here.
“From Day 1 with the three-year contract I was happy to be here. Everything worked out. We got it figured out and we’ll go from there.”
Yet, even though Napoli was confident he would be able to come to terms with the Red Sox (eventually settling on an incentive-laden, one-year deal), he did admit to some anxious moments when trying to determine the extend of his ailment.
“I was just trying to figure out what was wrong,” he said. “I had to see a bunch of doctors, flying all over the country, getting different opinions. The first thing was to see where my health was and what I could do. When we figured that out we were able to talk to teams again and it came down to signing here.”
Napoli will be working exclusively at first base throughout spring training, having previously played 133 major league games at the position.
Listening to the 31-year-old, however, and there seems to be some hope that catching isn’t totally out of his future plans.
“I’ve been out there before. I’m comfortable,” he said regarding playing first base. “It’s not like I’m out there on an island, or anything. I’ll go out there and I’ll work at it and try to make myself better every day. I’m excited. It will be a lot more taking stress off my body being over there then behind the plate. We’ll see what happens. Hopefully this hip thing goes away and I’ll be able to get behind the plate. For now we’re going to worry about playing first base and go from there.
“You go out there and take ground balls, but it’s always easier being in the same position all the time. You just have to work at it, take your ground balls and get better at it.”