The Boston Red Sox got some good news on Saturday when the results from first baseman Mike Napoli’s MRI revealed no further damage to his hip. The 31-year-old has been diagnosed with Avascular Necrosis, but he’s reported no adverse symptoms over the winter. News of the MRI results is hopefully a good indication that the new medication Napoli is taking will be effective in slowing down the condition.
After reaching a one-year, $5 million deal upon discovering the disease, both Napoli and the Red Sox have abandoned plans to use the slugger as a part-time catcher. Instead, the hope is that Napoli will be healthy enough to be the everyday first baseman. If he is, the middle of the Red Sox lineup should prove to be very strong.
Entering his eighth season in MLB, Napoli has shown that he is a perfect fit for Fenway Park. His career OPS at Fenway is an eye-popping 1.107, much of which is the result of his uppercut swing and his knack for pulling the ball to left field. Outside of Boston, Napoli has also proven that he can compete at a high level against the rest of the A.L. East teams.
The right-hander has a career .300 batting average at Camden Yards in Baltimore, and he’s hit.375 so far at the new Yankee Stadium. Against the Tampa Bay Rays, Napoli holds a solid .907 OPS, and his 11 home runs against the Toronto Blue Jays are the most he’s hit against any non-A.L. West team (other than the Red Sox).
A healthy Napoli will increase the Red Sox’ chances of competing for a division title by a wide margin. The Red Sox have very little depth behind him and very little power coming from their outfielders, so heavy production from their first baseman is a must. 2013 will be an important test for Napoli as far as his health and his future in baseball are concerned. With the news of this week’s MRI, he’s off to a great start in both regards.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)