Tale of two spring trainings for healthy Napoli

Tale of two spring trainings for healthy Napoli
March 2, 2014, 5:00 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A year ago, his first with the Red Sox, Mike Napoli felt as though his hands were tied for most of the winter and the early part of the spring.
     
Tests had revealed that Napoli had a degenerative hip condition and the Sox instructed him to limit his physical activity, especially any running.
     
"It's way different than last year,'' said Napoli. "I don't have any restrictions on me. I think I started running when we started playing games (in spring training) last year. This year, I ran the whole off-season and got my lower body in shape. It's a lot different. I'm free to do what I was doing earlier in my career. My lower half definitely feels better coming into this spring."
     
As an added bonus, he also doesn't have the physical wear-and-tear of the catching position to deal with anymore.
     
"Absolutely," agreed Napoli. "I remember in other springs (when I was catching), after the first week, I was done. My legs were already shot and you're tired already. I definitely feel fresher and I can do a lot more things."
     
Napoli's bat, meanwhile, looked to be in mid-season form Sunday. He smoked a homer to dead center field in the fourth inning, scoring David Ortiz (walk) ahead of him, as the Red Sox beat Baltimore, 8-6.
     
"We want to get to that (kind of swing) as fast as possible," said Napoli. "I still have work to do, but it felt good. I'm trying to see pitches, get my timing down, get my leg kick on time and just be in a good hitter's position early. But yeah, to flush a ball like that, this early in the spring, it's nice."
     
His contributions weren't limited to the plate. He also made a nice leaping grab of a line drive hit by the Orioles' Francisco Peguero in the top of the fourth.
     
Having mastered first base last year, he finds that he doesn't have to do some of the basic fundamental work at the position this spring.
     
"Maybe the volume is down," said Napoli. "I know where I have to be, where my feet have to be. I'm not going out there and working on my footwork. I already know how to do that. I'm trying to get good repetitions in, do it right."