Mike Napoli’s Hip Issue Called ‘Avascular Necrosis,’ But Symptom-Free Slugger Ready to Make Impact in 2013

Mike NapoliMike Napoli‘s much-talked-about “hip issue” is apparently a condition called avascular necrosis. The newest member of the Red Sox insists he hasn’t experienced any symptoms stemming from the diagnosis, though, and he’s looking forward to making an impact in 2013.

Napoli’s agent, Brian Grieper, acknowledged during a conference call Tuesday that he and his client went to Boston for a physical and a news conference back in December, at which point Napoli’s hip issue was detected. That led to the negotiations reopening, and Napoli’s initially reported three-year, $39 million deal eventually became a one-year contract worth a reported $5 million — or up to $13 million based on certain incentives.

Obviously, that’s a big shift in Napoli’s deal, which means the Red Sox must have some long-term concerns about the 31-year-old’s ailing hip. But Napoli said during Tuesday’s conference call that he’s focused on overcoming the condition.

“I didn’t know I had it so it was definitely a shock to me,” Napoli said. “I’m able to put things behind me. There’s nothing I can really do about that. I put it behind me and do whatever I can to keep myself healthy and move forward. I have to deal with it and put it behind me and keep myself on the field and try to help the team. I take it one day at a time. I’m going to go work out and make myself better.

“Obviously it’s something I have and it can get better. This medicine should make it better. I’d like to play as long as I possibly can and we’ll see what happens.”

Napoli made clear that, as of now, he doesn’t have any symptoms from the condition, which actually plagued two-sport athlete Bo Jackson during his professional career. Napoli also pointed out that he played with it last year, and that there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be able to do the same this season.

WebMD.com describes avascular necrosis (AVN) — or osteonecrosis — as “a condition that occurs when there is loss of blood to the bone.”

“Because bone is living tissue that requires blood, an interruption to the blood supply causes bone to die,” WebMD.com states. “If not stopped, this process eventually causes the bone to collapse.”

According to the website, AVN typically causes no symptoms, but it becomes painful as the disease progresses. With that in mind, it’s understandable that the Red Sox would want to protect themselves, although general manager Ben Cherington expressed confidence in Napoli’s ability to produce this season.

“We don’t have a lot of concerns about 2013,” Cherington said Tuesday. “When it comes to health, none of us can be 100 percent in our predictions. These are human beings, and when any player is on the field, injuries can happen. We want to stay away from predictions, but there’s no reason Mike Napoli won’t be our primary first baseman in 2013. That’s what we’re counting on. There’s no reason that won’t happen starting Opening Day.”

Napoli, whose career has consisted of him serving primarily as a catcher, should benefit from a move to first base, as it obviously entails less wear and tear on his body. And while he admits there were some other teams who expressed interest in his services, it ultimately came down to his desire to sign with the team that stuck with him throughout a rather hectic offseason.

“[Napoli] is a very loyal person. The Red Sox continued to keep the door open, and Mike in turn made a decision that he wanted to remain with the Red Sox even though he was a free agent,” Grieper said. “There were other teams that were interested. There certainly were possibilities and attractive opportunities out there. We certainly did seek those opportunities as they came to us, but at the end of the day, Mike made a decision that he wanted to be with the Boston Red Sox and be their first baseman.”

Now, the only thing left for Napoli to do is produce this season. And that’s something he’s done time and time again at Fenway Park, so the Red Sox might have just nabbed themselves one of the offseason’s biggest bargains despiteĀ  a rather low risk.

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Photo via Facebook/Mike Napoli

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