Nothing has been easy for Mike Napoli since he became a free agent at the end of the 2012 season. After agreeing to a three, $39 million contract pending a physical he watched and waited as his agent and the Red Sox worked through a protracted and sometimes tense contract negotiation after it was discovered during his physical that he had avascular necrosis in both hips. As a result, Napoli eventually signed a one year, $5 million deal.
Once he became a member of the Red Sox he wasn’t cleared for full workouts or playing time until this past Friday night. Throughout spring training when everyone else was sharpening their toolbox for game play, he spent time on his knees fielding grounders and performing boring, repetitive drills. He ran – a little – and stretched and then ran some more. He also took the extra time to work with the Boston coaching staff to dig in and start learning the finer points of first base since in his past he was primarily a catcher who split time at first base but has never been considered a wizard around the bag. He only started fully running the base paths last week.
Napoli says he has never felt any discomfort from the disease that limits proper blood supply to both hips. But as with any injury there is concern about full on performance in game situations. Last week Napoli was declared ready to go.
Yes, Friday’s game was a spring training affair against a not very good Pittsburgh Pirates team but for Napoli and the Sox there was a lot on the line. As happens often enough in baseball with players in situations like this, somehow the ball just seems to find them.
In the first inning Pittsburgh leadoff hitter Darren Ford pushed a ball just past Jon Lester. It was in that no man’s land of too slow for the second baseman to get and too far past the pitcher. Only the first baseman could get to it and then needs to make an athletic play with the pitcher unable to cover. Napoli scooped up the ball and barely won a footrace to beat Ford to the bag. The point is Napoli sprinted and won the footrace. Hip 1, injury 0.
After Jacoby Ellsbury singled to lead off Boston’s first, followed by two walks to Dustin Pedroia and Shane Victorinio, Napoli scalded and offering from Pittsburgh hurler Jeff Locke that hit Locke in the ankle and ricocheted sharply into short left field near third baseman Pedro Alvarez for a base hit. Sox 1, Pirates 0. Hip 2, injury 0.
Napoli went one for two, got an RBI and scored a run en route to a 5-2 Boston win. Did he do anything special? No. Was doing something special the point of the outing? Absolutely not. Mike Napoli looked like Boston’s every day first baseman and for now that’s enough.
What is hip?
Tell me, tell me, if you think you know.
What is hip?
If you’re really hip,
the question, “Will it show?”
You’re into a hip trip.
Maybe hipper than hip.
What is hip?
- What Is Hip, Tower of Power