FORT MYERS, Fla. — When spring training started, the Red Sox held Mike Napoli out of games until March 1 because of a degenerative condition discovered in his hips a few months earlier.
Napoli watched his teammates from the sidelines while he prepared at a much slower pace.
Now, with the season getting started Monday, Napoli is free of concerns.
“They cleared me after all that, and I’ve been going at it like any other year,” he said Saturday. “I feel great.”
Napoli will get an MRI every three months to determine whether the condition — avascular necrosis — has advanced.
“That’s really it,” he said. “I’ll just go one day at a time. I’ll play as much as they want me to play. I’m taking care of my body and I’ll go from there.
“Going into it, it felt like there was nothing wrong. But hearing everybody talk about it, they kind of put it in my head that there was something wrong. But once I got out there and starting running around, I let it go.
“I just play the game and play hard. Just play.”
With David Ortiz headed for the disabled list, Napoli will hit cleanup.
“It’s exciting to get started,” he said. “I like this group. We’re playing together well and it’s a good bunch of guys. Nobody is being selfish. When you get that, you can win a lot of ballgames.”
Napoli has a career 1.107 OPS in 19 games at Fenway Park. But he’s not too caught up in that statistic.
“Everybody makes a big deal out of it, and I like hitting there, but it’s 19 games,” he said. “We’ll see. I like having that wall there. Who wouldn’t like that? You can get some cheap hits. In the long run, it’ll help me.”
Napoli finished spring training by playing in four games in a row at first base. The Sox will try to get him a break when the opportunity is there.
“More how he feels and how we’ll look to take advantage of certain matchups,” manager John Farrell said. “In an initial view, we’d look to see Nap in a DH role just to get him off his feet in a given day. That’s part of that rotation with the DH slot.”
Farrell considers Daniel Nava as the primary backup at first base, not the more experienced Mike Carp.
Bradley on board
The Red Sox do not plan to set their 25-man roster until the 3 p.m. deadline Sunday. They will use the time to make a move to get outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. on the 40-man roster. Because that roster is full, the Sox either will have to designate a player for assignment or trade one to clear a spot for Bradley. Until then, he will not officially be on the team.
But Bradley did arrive at JetBlue Park in a charcoal suit Saturday and accompanied the team to New York.
When asked if anything about spring training came as a surprise to him, Farrell said it was how good Bradley was.
“Just reading about him, hearing about him, until you see him, you don’t know fully what to expect, but that’s been a good surprise,” he said.
The 22-year-old Bradley was busy Saturday making arrangements for his parents, fiancée, younger brother, and other family members to attend the Yankees series and then the home opener April 8 against Baltimore.
“It’s an amazing time for my family,” he said.
Bradley would be the first Red Sox player to make the Opening Day roster out of Double A since Shea Hillenbrand in 2001.
Drew gets closer
Shortstop Stephen Drew, out since March 7 with a concussion, is close to getting in a minor league game and will not travel with the team to New York as a result.
“That’s the exact reason for it,” Farrell said.
Drew has been taking batting practice, fielding ground balls, and throwing. The next step will be to face live pitching.
“He continues to report some further resolving of the symptoms,” said Farrell. “He continues to move in the right direction.”
The Sox want Drew to be able to play every day once he starts playing. Before Drew can get in a game, he has to be further cleared by doctors affiliated with Major League Baseball.
‘Framework’ for Ortiz
Ortiz, out all spring training recovering from an Achilles’ tendon injury, traveled with the team to New York and will return to Fort Myers after that series. Farrell said Ortiz could take live batting practice or play in games the week of April 8.
“There’s a framework in place that would target some time the following week to hopefully get some live at-bats,” Farrell said. “That’s the general time frame right now without being hard and fast to a given date.”
Ortiz has been running straight ahead and doing side-to-side agility drills. The next step for him will be taking turns. From there he would progress to running the bases.
Farrell said he was pleased with how spring training went for the Sox, outside of the injuries to Ortiz and Drew.
“Overall I think we’ve had a successful camp,” he said. “We’ve been able to integrate the number of [new] players that have been brought in successfully. They’ve understood what we’re trying to get done as far as our approach every night.
“We’ve settled into some element of a lineup, given who’s available. Certainly David and Stephen coming back is going to positively affect that.
“I think overall it’s been a very businesslike approach. The attitude has been great, the energy has been consistent, and we’ve had a very concentrated effort.”
Part of the plan
Farrell is planning to use backup catcher David Ross in the third game of the season, Thursday against the Yankees. “His involvement is going to be somewhat regular,” Farrell said. The Sox are open to using Jarrod Saltalamacchia as the DH with Ross catching. “Not going to use that as a deterrent,” Farrell said. “That’s a distinct possibility at some point.” If Ross were injured and left the game, the Sox would put Saltalamacchia behind the plate, give up the DH, and use pinch hitters as needed . . . The Sox officially released outfielder Ryan Sweeney, who opted out of his minor league deal Thursday after being informed he would not be on the major league roster . . . Farrell likes the idea of hitting Shane Victorino second against lefthanders because he switch hits and has speed. But against righthanders, Victorino will hit well down in the lineup, Farrell said. Victorino has a career .881 OPS against lefthanders, .732 against righthanders.