FORT MYERS, Fla. — First baseman Mike Napoli  cleared his final hurdle en route to starting to play in exhibition games on Friday. Under the watch of Red Sox  trainers, Napoli engaged in a number of baserunning drills, simulating a run from home to first on a grounder, from home to first with a turn around the bag on a single, home to second, first to third, second to home and, in a simulation of a sacrifice fly, from third to home.
Napoli’s hips have remained pain-free all offseason and spring, and so he had few concerns that he would feel any discomfort running due to the avascular necrosis with which he was diagnosed. His lone concern in these baserunning drills was related to his legs, but that proved no real concern at all.
“I feel good to go. I worked out hard to get my legs in shape and I feel good to go,” said Napoli. “I thought I was going to be sore, but everything’s been good. I’ve been running a lot in the pool, so I think just doing that has helped me when I get out there to not be so sore.
“I think it was just my muscles in my legs, just getting them in shape. I haven’t thought once about my hips in anything I’ve done because I’ve never felt anything. So for me to worry about my hips hurting when they haven’t is just, it doesn’t bother me,” he added. “I’m just worrying about getting my quads and hamstrings and everything in shape. I hadn’t ran in two months. I think that’s just getting my feet under me and worrying about my quads and hamstrings.”
Napoli has been staying in shape by running in a pool on a treadmill. He’s been performing both interval sprints and light jogs of about 15-minute durations in order to prepare for baserunning. He has yet to slide this spring, but he expressed little concern about adding that element of the game to his repertoire when he is playing. Napoli has not been told to avoid sliding.
“I’ve gone to every spring, you don’t slide the whole offseason, but as soon as there’s a double play or something, you’re trying to break it up, you just do it. I’m not saying I’m the most graceful slider in the world, but I think I’ll remember it,” said Napoli, who said he’s been advised to “just play the game. That’s the best way to go at it. That’s the way I’ve always done it. I’m just going to play the game and let things happen. When you start worrying about things, can’t slide, shouldn’t slide, that’s when you get in between and hurt yourself.”
The 31-year-old has continued to follow the protocols that were set up for him after he signed with the Sox. Now, after eagerly anticipating the start of games, it appears that he is ready to build up for the regular season on the field. Initially, Napoli is expected — like most veterans in spring training — to play every other day, depending on how he feels. With his participation in Grapefruit League  games now slated to commence just one week after the start of the schedule, Napoli foresees no problems being ready for the start of the regular season.
“There’s still a whole month to go [in spring training],” he said.