Napoli tested right away in Red Sox's debut

Napoli tested right away in Red Sox's debut
March 1, 2013, 11:45 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Pirates wasted little time in testing out Mike Napoli and his recently diagnosed hips at first base. On the first pitch he saw from Jon Lester, leadoff hitter Darren Ford pushed a bunt toward first base.
Napoli -- making his Grapefruit League debut after being delayed this spring by the avascular necrosis that was diagnosed in both hips in his physical with the Red Sox -- fielded the ball then beat Ford to the base for the out.
“I got it out of the way quick,” Napoli said. “I guess the ball finds you.”
Napoli knew he would be tested, but he wasn’t expecting it right out of the chute.
“I’m ready for a ball but I didn’t think with a righthander up I was going to get a ball like that,” he said. “But I was prepared for it and I just made the play.”
Napoli cleanly handled eight chances in the field in his four innings of work, including a pop-up in foul territory, and two 3-to-1 feeds to the pitcher.
“I felt good,” he said. “I was comfortable over there. I should, after all the work we put in on the backfields and just working on it. Everything felt god, my legs felt good and I was happy to be in there tonight.”
“When you consider how many plays Mike had over at first base, we couldn’t draw it up probably any better in the four innings of work he had there,” said manager John Farrell. “A number of 3-to-1 feeds to the pitcher, couple picks in the dirt, did a very good job. First pitch of the gamer that he sees, here’s a push bunt his way and he’s thrown  right into the mix but handled everything flawlessly.”
He even handled a one-hopper from starter Jon Lester to retire Jose Tabata to end the third inning.
“I feel like I got everything out of the way those first two innings, seen everything,” Napoli said. “So it was fun. I had a good time out there. I’m glad I got to make the plays.”
“I’m just glad he caught it,” Lester said. “You get a lot of firsts out of the way. You work on them in practice, but once that runner starts running down the line, things speed up and just one of those deals you just got to keep working on it and keep moving your feet. It ended up working out long hop, which is always good. Nap did a good job and we got the out, that’s the main thing.
“It looked like Julian Tavares throwing the ball to first base.”
Napoli got two at-bats, as planned, going 1-for-2 with a run scored and an RBI. In the first, he had an RBI single, off Pirates starter Jeff Locke’s right leg. He took third on Stephen Drew’s double, scoring on a wild pitch in Boston’s three-run first inning, then struck out in the third.
“Another big piece to our lineup that we need in the middle there to  protect some other guys and score a lot of runs hopefully because of him,” Lester said.
Napoli passed all his tests on his first night of work.
“That’s the way I want it,” he said. “I want to get as many balls as possible when I’m over there. I feel good over there. Just doing the things we worked on on the back fields, go from there.”
Napoli is expected to be on a day-on, day-off schedule for the foreseeable future. He is not planning to be in the lineup Saturday when the Sox visit the Twins, but should be Sunday when they host the Yankees.