No catching, no problem

Sam Galanis
Contributing Writer

Some baseball players have dreams of playing a specific position in the Major Leagues and are determined to start there, only to be disappointed by their manager seeing them as a different position player. But Mike Napoli is actually glad for once that Red Sox management sees him as a first baseman rather than a catcher.

Catching never panned out for Napoli, as much as he originally wanted it to. In five years with the Los Angeles Angels, starting in 2006, Napoli split his playing time with their other catcher, Jeff Mathis. He was never the clear starter. In his past two seasons with the Texas Rangers, he played at catcher and first and still didn’t get all of the playing time.

AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

Now, injuries have solidified the Sox’s decision to use him solely at first base. After the Sox first signed him, Napoli revealed that he had avascular necrosis in both hips, a degenerative condition that kills bone tissue. Sox management then renegotiated his contract from three years and $39 million to one year and $5 million with performance bonuses that could make his contract worth anywhere up to $13 million.

Napoli’s hip condition almost guarantees that he’ll never catch again because the constant squatting does a number on the body. But Napoli is enjoying his time away from it.

“I’ve lost the interest in going back there,” Napoli said, according to the Boston Herald, before Thursday’s 9-2 win over the Phillies. “You’re not squatting all the time, not taking foul tips. I feel way better, just fresh. I’m a little tired, nicked up here and there, but it’s way different. It’s night and day.” Napoli cited David Ross’s recent concussion as another reason to be thankful that he’s in a new position.

Playing first base has also allowed Napoli to get more playing time than he has ever had. So far, he has only missed six starts, and should get somewhere around 665 at-bats this season. His career high is 453. All in all, being less prone to injuries and getting 200 more at-bats than usual is good reason for Napoli to never want to be behind the plate again.

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