Mike Napoli continues to be pain free, so it looks like the training wheels are about to come off.
Napoli, who did some more baserunning drills on Wednesday, is on track to make his spring training debut on Friday when the Red Sox host the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Napoli, who was diagnosed with a hip condition during the offseason, has been brought along slowly by the Red Sox’ coaching and training staff in an effort to cautiously prepare him for the regular season. The slugger hasn’t suffered any pain, though, and it looks like he’ll soon take the field for his first game as a member of the Sox.
“I feel good to go,” Napoli told reporters. “I worked out hard to get my legs in shape and I feel good to go. I thought I was going to be sore, but everything’s been good. I’ve been running a lot in the pool, so I think just doing that has helped me when I get out there to not be so sore.
“I think it was just my muscles in my legs, just getting them in shape. I haven’t thought once about my hips in anything I’ve done because I’ve never felt anything. So for me to worry about my hips hurting when they haven’t is just, it doesn’t bother me. I’m just worrying about getting my quads and hamstrings and everything in shape. I hadn’t ran in two months. I think that’s just getting my feet under me and worrying about my quads and hamstrings.”
Napoli hasn’t attempted to slide yet, but the 31-year-old said that he hasn’t been told to avoid sliding, and he therefore doesn’t see it becoming an issue when the time comes to finally hit the dirt.
Napoli continues to adapt to his new position at first base as well. He’ll likely get the start there on Friday, and that’s where he figures to see the majority of his playing time this season after years behind the plate, so it’s important for him to continue getting the necessary reps before Boston’s April 1 opener. Napoli already feels like he’s made a ton of progress and his comfort level continues to soar, especially when it comes to his footwork.
“Yeah, just talking with [third base coach Brian Butterfield] and being in the right position, because I never knew what the right position was or how I should go at it. I just try to be athletic over there and make a play,” Napoli said. “Now it’s almost like a guideline. I take groundballs and I put myself in the right position over and over, that my body just reacts. It’s starting to react now. I just go out there and take groundballs and let everything happen.
“Now I feel comfortable doing it.”
Comfort is always a good thing, especially when you consider how important it will be to have a healthy Mike Napoli in the middle of the Red Sox’ order this season.
Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.