BOSTON (CBS) – Waiting has been an ongoing trend for Mike Napoli at the start of his Red Sox career.
First he had to wait to finalize his contract with the team, which went from being a three-year, $39-million deal to a one-year, $5-million deal (with incentives) thanks to a hip issue that raised more red flags than a soviet-era army. That process took nearly two months to solve, but it wasn’t the last time Napoli would find himself in limbo with his new team.
When reporting to Spring Training, Napoli once again had to play the waiting game – likely making tick marks for every day he waited for the Boston medical staff to clear him for baseball activities. That happened two weeks ago, but began another period of waiting until he was cleared to play in games.
So Napoli got in his work in the battling cages, went through rigorous agility drills, and spent numerous afternoons running the bases in order to finally clear that final hurdle.
Now, he’s finally set to take the field for for the first time with his new team.
Napoli will get his first hacks as a member of the Red Sox on Friday, batting cleanup and playing first as Boston hosts the Pittsburgh Pirates at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida.
“I’m pretty anxious. I’ve been chomping at the bit to get out there, but I knew it was part of the process to get my legs under me and workouts in – make sure everything is alright,” Napoli told WBZ NewsRadio 1030′s Jonny Miller on Friday. “I was up at 5:45 this morning getting excited. It will be fun. I’m just going to play the game like I usually do and let the best thing happen.”
“There has been no discomfort of any kind and no restrictions,” manager John Farrell said of Napoli. “We’re looking forward to getting him in the flow of things, starting tonight.”
The 31-year-old is coming off an All-Star season with Texas where he clubbed 24 home runs in 108 games. He only hit .227 at the plate, but the Red Sox are relying more on his power to add some pop to the middle of their lineup.
He’s also making the transition to a full-time first baseman after starting just 118 games at first in his career.
Friday will be another big step for Napoli as he sets off in his Red Sox career. While the hip issue – AVN, a degenerative condition where bone tissue dies due to lack of blood supply – will never go away, Napoli is not concerned about it keeping him from contributing this season and putting up the numbers the Red Sox want (and need) him to do.
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And there’s no doubt in his mind that when the Red Sox kick off the regular season on April 1, he’ll be in the heart of their lineup and manning first.
“There’s nothing that should stop me from being ready,” he said confidently.