Staying healthy earns Napoli an extra $8 million

Staying healthy earns Napoli an extra $8 million
September 12, 2013, 7:30 pm
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Mike Napoli stayed healthy enough to collect $8 million in incentives, meaning he'll make $13 million this season.

(AP Photo)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Mike Napoli reached a milestone Thursday that many believed he wouldn't this season.

It had nothing to do with homers, or hitting streaks or any other traditional categories. Instead, it had everything to do with what very nearly torpedoed his Red Sox career before it even began: good health.

By being active for the 165th day this season, Napoli qualified for $8 million in incentives for 2013. That, combined with a $5 million base, means Napoli will earn $13 million for this season, or, the same number he was due to make as part of a three-year contract for $39 million.

That contract was eventually scuttled when the Sox discovered that Napoli had a potentially debilitating hip condition, causing the Sox to withdraw their original multi-year offer.

Instead, the Sox and Napoli worked on a low-risk, one-year deal with built incentives bases on days on roster and plate appearances. By reaching Day No. 165 Thursday, Napoli qualfied for the biggest incentive payout in his deal.

"It's great,'' said Napoli. "It just shows I was able to stay on the field and be out there a lot and try to help us win. It's a good day, but I've got to let this day go and get back on the field and try to keep doing what I'm doing.''

Napoli has managed to stay off the DL all season -- for the hip orany other ailment -- and went into Thursday second on the team in homers RBI and extra-base hits.

Reflecting on his ability to stay healthy, Napoli said: "I was always confident because I never felt anything in my hip. I just took the necessary
steps -- in the training room, working out. I've had a couple of MRIs that show that my hip is staying the same (as it was before the season).

"I was confident that I could stay on the field.''

Napoli was particularly motivated to stay healthy this season, to prove a point to himself and the Red Sox.

"Sure,'' he said. "I mean, that's my goal every year -- to stay  healthy and on the field. Sometimes, some things happen that you can't control and you get injured. But being at first base helped me out a lot with my body and how it felt.''

In addition to qualifying for the maximum incentive payout in this year's deal, Napoli, who can be a free agent again this winter, believes
that his durability this year will make a statement to the market.

"I hope so,'' he said. "I'm pretty sure I'll have to go through the whole MRI process as I did before. But everything's looked good and I'm confident that teams aren't going to shy away.''

Napoli also made clear that his first preference is to remain with the Sox in 2014 and beyond.

"I'd love to stay here,'' he said. "I love this group of guys. A lot of guys are coming back (next season). This is a special group. You bring
back guys like this, they're going to be able to win for a couple of years.''

Since the Sox did all their homework on the hip last winter and know Napoli knows what he has to do to remain healthy, there should be a basis
for getting a deal done.

"They know be better [after a season],'' said Napoli. "I've been here for a whole year. They know how I work. When that time comes, we'll probably
try to pursue something. But right now, we're just worrying about winning and taking care of this year.''

But Napoli also stressed that, after settling for the one-year deal last winter, he's proven that he's worth a multi-year commitment.

"Yeah, sure,'' he said. "With all my [medicals] being good, why not?''