FORT MYERS, Fla. -- There's not much competition for roster spots here in Red Sox camp, but one job battle that bears watching is the one for the backup first baseman.
That could be an important spot, since starting first baseman Mike Napoli is not a great defender and the Sox would like someone who could serve as a late-inning defensive replacement. Also, Napoli's well-documented hip issues mean he may not always be available.
In a perfect world, the Sox would like that candidate to hit lefthanded, to complement Napoli, who is righthanded. And, they'd prefer that the player be able to contribute in the outfield.
Involved in the mix are Lyle Overbay, Mitch Maier, Daniel Nava and Mark Hamilton. The Sox also had some discussions with outfielder Ryan Sweeney, for now, there are no plans to have Sweeney try the position and he remains exclusively an outfielder.
"It's important that we have another first baseman on the roster,'' said GM Ben Cherington. "We think we have a good chance to find the solution with the guys that are in here. It would be ideal (to have a person who could play both first and the outfield). It needs to be someone who can handle the position defensively and can hopefully produce against a righty (pitcher)."
Manager John Farrell said Nava "has shown decent actions around the bag and with each passing day and added reps, he's getting a little bit more comfortable, a little bit more fluid there.''
According to Farrell, Nava played about 20 games at first while in junior college.
Cherington said the Sox will most likely begin the year with 12 pitchers with 13 position players, leaving them four bench players -- a catcher, an infielder, and outfielder and another outfielder who could handle first.
"There have been times when we've carried 13 pitchers and it never feels optimal when you're doing it,'' said Cherington. "I think what we'd like to do is set up a team with 12 pitchers and make it work that way. But we'll see where we are at the end of the spring.
"Our team really works better with 12 pitchers. We've carried 13 before due to extenuating circumstances, so we'll see. We can't rule it out. But our preference would be to have another position player.''
The Sox plan to bring in Tim Wakefield later this week to work with fellow knuckleballer Steven Wright.
Wright was obtained last July from Cleveland in exchange for first baseman Lars Anderson.
"Understanding what worked well for Wake,'' said Farrell, "is not to say that it's going the same exact checkpoints for Steven. But that's such a tight-knit fraternity (pitchers who throw the knuckleball), to have Wake as a resource and have him in here...He's more than willing to share some of his thoughts and talk about it.''
David Ortiz likely will be held out of the first few exhibition games, which begin Thursday, but shouldn't be sidelined long.
He took live batting practice, but the Sox are carefully monitoring his right Achilles heel which kept him out of the final two months.
"He looks great,'' said Cherington. "He's in great shape. It doesn't seem like he'll be that long, but we're probably going to be cautious with him. We've got a fair amount of time in camp and we're much more concerned about the 162-game schedule than we are the spring training schedule.''