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John Farrell notes: Mike Napoli ‘very soft hands,’ will be ‘very good first baseman’

02.17.13 at 5:02 pm ET

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Mike Napoli took grounders at first base for the first time in a Red Sox uniform Sunday and the early reports are very promising, on his hips and his hands.

“He took ground balls after BP today so we’ll gradually build that up,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. ” Fifty ground balls at first base. He’s got very soft hands. Even when you watch him take BP, his movements are smooth. We’re confident he’s going to be a very good first baseman.

There’s something else Napoli can provide, a catcher’s perspective on the American League, having caught with the Angels and Rangers. He’ll be able to contribute to conversations with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ross. How much?

“As he switches to first base fulltime, some of that remains to be seen,” Farrell said. “But he’s not going to look past his own personal history with the league. And I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of conversation between he, David and Salty just to share their experiences to come to some commonality that we also would have through our advance reports. But as far as funneling that from the adrenaline rush of leading a pitcher through a given game, that remains to be seen, how that’ll play out on the field.”

Then there’s Ross.

“An encouraging catcher, and encouraging from the standpoint encouraging the pitcher,” Farrell said. “Just talking to the guys that have thrown to him, there’s such positive feedback on the interactions they’ve had, either after a bullpen or while they’re actually throwing their pen, just on David’s comments in between pitches. He engages every guy he catches and I think that pitchers feel that connection and they feel the support from him, and that’s one of the things that makes him so valuable to get the most out of a given pitcher.

“That goes back to his game-calling ability. Not only is he smart in reading swings and getting a feel of a guy in the batter’s box when he’s trying to make an adjustment, but he speaks with confidence to the pitcher. And I think anytime that a pitcher hears that, as Ross speaks with that kind of conviction, they feel it and trust a pitch that is called in a given moment.”

Farrell said Ross can have a big impact, even on the days he doesn’t catch.

“As he builds a rapport with each pitcher, yes,” Farrell said. “It’s not to step over Salty or whoever else he might be with, it’s to know that his intentions are from the right spot and he cares about the guy on the mound, and you sense that.”

On Stephen Drew and comparisons to brother J.D. Drew: “A lot more talkative than J.D. That there seems to be no ill-effect from the ankle injury, through his ground ball work, the team defense that we’ve run through so far. He’s very particular in just looking for feedback, whether it’s in between rounds of BP, to the way the ball carries across an infield, trying to generate the exact rotation and backspin on throws to keep them true. He’s pretty meticulous in his work.”

On the bizarre lob-toss of Alfredo Aceves during live BP to Jonny Gomes and Saltalamacchia: “His session on the mound didn’t go as intended. He’s healthy and it’s been addressed.” WEEI.com’s Alex Speier has an in-depth look into the incident.

On Ryan Dempster: “A very consistent and professional approach. He’s a competitive guy, even in those games where things might not go well in the early innings, he finds a way to get through the middle or latter part of the game to keep some of the pressure off the bullpen on a given night. There’s a long history of big inning totals in given years and we’re looking for more of the same, to provide that leadership by example, more than anything.

“I think we’d sign up today for four guys who would give us 200-plus innings but it’s a consistent point for us to begin a game every night for that starting pitcher to control the tempo in the game into those later innings, and it sets us up for a chance to win on a consistent basis.”

On John Lackey and his first live BP Sunday to Jose Iglesias and Dustin Pedroia: “He threw the ball today consistent with his bullpens. There’s no change in the amount of time needed to warm up, throwing the fastball to both sides of the plate so in the early going, he’s doing everything we’d hope to see coming off the surgery.”

Speaking of Iglesias, here’s what Farrell has seen from him offensively so far: “More consistent swing path. I know there’s been a concerted effort from the time he’s been in the system to be an all-fields approach, contact-type. I think at times that contact approach and spraying the ball around the field, he’ll get into a bit of a weaker position to execute the swing. There’s bat speed in there, and it was evident when he first signed here, so to get back to just hard contact and not so much trying to steer the ball around the infield or around the field for that matter.

“Defensively, by all accounts and all of us are probably in agreement, he’s ready to play to defensively at the major league level. It’s a matter of consistent at-bats, offensively.”

On the veteran staff: “They have a first-hand experience of knowing 32-plus starts in a given season, what spring training is and how to gauge [spring training] in their minds as they’re going through the early phases of it and what we’re looking for as we get closer to the start of season. Understanding the importance of four days in between to log innings. To me, the starting pitcher’s primary objective is to pitch as many innings as possible, quality innings obviously. The work and preparation that goes into that leading into that leading into camp and the season, they’ve all been very successful at that.”

On Lyle Overbay: “The one thing we know defensively, he’s a well above-average first baseman. As far as the positional fit, we’re looking for that left-handed [batting] first baseman or a player to be able to play first base as a left-handed bat, to be able to spel a guy in left field, potentially. We may even see Lyle in left field to take a look at that, to answer that potential question we have. But other than that, he has a track record of performance. And even though he’s gone into more of a reserve or limited type role over the past couple of years, he’s accustomed to it. I don’t know that we can just say what Lyle’s going to do because it’s also going to be in conjunction with everybody else that’s going to be looked at in that spot.”

On pitchers playing in the infield during PFP: “It serves a couple of purposes, one it continues to allow the pitchers to go through the bunt responsibilities but it also gives them insight in what every other player on the field responsibilities are, so they get a better understanding of not only reading the pace of the ball or bunt, but where can they anticipate and understand how much distance that has to be traveled in certain situations. So, from that standpoint it was helpful. A little bit of competitive element in there.

“I’ll tell you, when you get into spring training, one of the tough things is being creative with the amount of PFPs. That was one thing. When was the last time you saw Andrew Miller at short.

On the pitchers for 7-inning games against Northeastern and Boston College Thursday at JetBlue Park: “That’ll be posted in the next day or two. On the two college games, that’ll serve somewhat as an inter-squad game type for us and you’ll see a number of guys go to the mound for one inning, mostly all guys that are in camp as relievers in those first two days so you’ll probably see 14 different pitchers run to the mound on Thursday.”

Farrell announced Friday’s workout will begin a half-hour earlier, but won’t be abbreviated, due to the annual charity golf tournament.

Read More: 2013 spring training, alfredo aceves, Boston Red Sox, John Farrell
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