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Will Middlebrooks says not to worry about Mike Napoli

01.27.13 at 8:52 am ET
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Will Middlebrooks has a message for those who might be curious about the status of Mike Napoli: Don’€™t worry.

The Red Sox third baseman has been working out with his new teammate at the Athlete’€™s Performance facility near Dallas and reports he has seen no ill-effects from Napoli’€™s recently-diagnosed avascular necrosis. (In case you missed it, the AVN ailment is a degenerative disease that kills bone tissue.)

‘€œNot at all,’€ said Middlebrooks when asked if Napoli has shown any signs of being hindered by the condition. ‘€œIt doesn’€™t hurt him, and he’€™ll tell you the same thing. It’€™s just one of those things that’€™s tough because he doesn’€™t have any of the symptoms, but it’€™s there.’€

Physical issues aside, after spending time with Napoli at the training facility, Middlebrooks feels the first baseman is a great fit for what the Red Sox need.

‘€œHe’€™s awesome,’€ the third baseman said. ‘€œHe’€™s fun to be around. He’€™s been one of my main hitting partners during the past month. He’€™s going to be great for this clubhouse.’€

One of the chief concerns which surfaces when analyzing Napoli’€™s effectiveness at first base is what it might mean for Middlebrooks’€™ mindset.

With Napoli entering into being a full-time first baseman for the first time in his career ‘€“ having previously played 133 of his 672 career games at the position ‘€“ his ability to prevent errant throws from the other three infielders has been a talking point.

MIddlebrooks, who has been playing catch with Napoli at AP, doesn’€™t foresee the dynamic being an issue.

‘€œYou have to trust him to know if have to make a play, or you have to throw a ball low and one-hop it to him, he’€™s going to catch it,’€ the third baseman said. ‘€œThere’€™s a lot of balls you have to just get rid of and I’€™m not going to make the best throw. Having Adrian over there was nice because he caught everything.

‘€œI don’€™t think it’€™s a problem, but of course I haven’€™t short-hopped him playing catch. I think everything is going to be fine, and if I make a bad throw that’€™s on me. But I think it’€™s going to be fine.’€

Middlebrooks believes that the time he put in on major league fields during 2012 ‘€“ before having his season ended with a fractured right wrist ‘€“ is going to make everybody’€™s life easier.

The improvement started with getting a new glove, (‘€œThey sent me one of the gloves that Pedey uses and it was so much better. I had that old glove I was using in the minor leagues and it just wasn’€™t cutting it anymore,’€ he said) and continued with improved confidence.

He didn’€™t make an error in any of his last 17 games (47 chances) after having committed nine miscues in his previous 56 appearances.

‘€œMost of that was studying and knowing how to play certain players,’€ said Middlebrooks, who saw the Red Sox go 42-31 when he played. ‘€œThat first month or two up here, my first time seeing hitters, I didn’€™t know how to play them. I might be playing too far in and they’€™re smoking balls at me. And then other guys are fast guys and I’€™m playing too deep and they’€™re beating my throw over there. It’€™s just learning where to play guys in certain situations.’€

And what about the health of his wrist?

‘€œI have no restrictions at all, he said. ‘€œI can say I’€™m 100 percent.’€

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