Middlebrooks, who is training with Napoli at the Athlete’s Performance facility near Dallas, likes what he has seen out of Boston’s recently signed first baseman thus far, and he appears confident in Napoli’s ability to stay healthy and produce.
“Not at all,” Middlebrooks told WEEI.com when asked if Napoli has been hindered by his condition. “It doesn’t hurt him, and he’ll tell you the same thing. It’s just one of those things that’s tough because he doesn’t have any of the symptoms, but it’s there.”
Napoli’s hip issue — which caused the Red Sox to reopen negotiations with the 31-year-old this offseason before finally inking him to a one-year, incentive-laden deal — has been diagnosed as avascular necrosis, which WebMD.com describes as “a condition that occurs when there is loss of blood to the bone.” Napoli made it clear during a conference call last week that he’s symptom-free, and that he’s ready to be the Red Sox’ starting first baseman come Opening Day.
Assuming that ends up being the case, it’ll mark the first time that Napoli will enter a season serving primarily as a first baseman, as he has spent the majority of his career behind the plate. Despite the lack of experience down at first, though,
Middlebrooks thinks Napoli will be just fine in his new role.
“You have to trust him to know if have to make a play, or you have to throw a ball low and one-hop it to him, he’s going to catch it,” Middlebrooks told WEEI.com. “There’s a lot of balls you have to just get rid of and I’m not going to make the best throw. Having Adrian [Gonzalez] over there was nice because he caught everything.
“I don’t think it’s a problem, but of course I haven’t short-hopped him playing catch. I think everything is going to be fine, and if I make a bad throw that’s on me.”
If Napoli is able to stay healthy, he should bolster Boston’s lineup, which Middlebrooks also figures to be a huge part of in 2013. But while we won’t know Napoli’s true impact on the offense for a few months, it’s already abundantly clear that the veteran slugger is winning over his new teammates.
“He’s awesome,” Middlebrooks reportedly said. “He’s fun to be around. He’s been one of my main hitting partners during the past month. He’s going to be great for this clubhouse.”
Winning would also be good for the Red Sox’ clubhouse, and these two guys appear to at least have the right mindset heading into this season.
Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle.
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