Mike Napoli was diagnosed with avascular necrosis in both hips during his pre-signing physical with the Red Sox, but he hasn’t experienced any problems related to the disease up to this point and received a rave review Saturday afternoon from new teammate and offseason workout partner Will Middlebrooks.
“Not at all,” the Red Sox third baseman told WEEI when asked if Napoli has shown any signs of being hindered by the condition. “It 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. He’s awesome. He’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.”
Napoli was originally offered a three-year, $39 million free agent contract from the Red Sox front office, but that was later shifted to a one-year, $5 million deal. He will start at first base for Boston in 2013.
Doctors believe they caught Napoli’s AVN early enough to prevent it from causing long-term issues.
The Angels’ bench is looking woefully thin this winter — so thin, in fact, that manager Mike Scioscia says he’s considering utilizing starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner on the days he’s not scheduled to pitch.
I’ve never had a pitcher pinch-run,” Scioscia told reporters Saturday. “There’s more bad than good that can come out of it. But Shohei is not just a pitcher. He’s a guy that has the ability to do some of the things coming off the bench, whether it’s pinch-hit or pinch-run, and we’re definitely going to tap into that if it’s necessary, because we feel we’re not putting him at risk. It’s something he’s able to do.
Granted, spring training allows for a certain amount of experimentation before managers and players decide what works best for them, so this may not be the strategy the Angels employ for the entire season. In addition to coming off the bench between starts, Ohtani is also expected to see 2-3 days at DH every week, forcing Albert Pujols to shift over to first base to accommodate the new two-way star.
Ohtani’s hitting prowess has already been well-documented — he has a lifetime .286/.358/.500 batting line from NPB and crushed a batting practice home run during his initial workouts with the team this week — but his skills on the basepaths have received less attention so far. MLB Pipeline describes the 23-year-old phenom as a “well-above average runner” whose speed has yet to manifest stolen bases: he’s nabbed just 13 bases in 17 chances over the last five years. That’s a number Scioscia hopes to see increased this season, though he doesn’t want his ace pitcher making any head-first slides on the basepaths to do so.
To be sure, it’s an unorthodox role for any young player to step into, but if anyone can pull it off, Ohtani can.