FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Like many Bostonians that make the trip south in February, Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli is glad spring training is finally here.
Sure he’s relieved to leave behind over five feet of snow that’s blanketed the city. He’s certainly happy he left behind the cold and his recently bought Boston residence.
But he has a far different reason for being excited than most: It’s a sure sign his painful offseason is complete following complex surgery in November for a severe case of obstructive sleep apnea.
“It’s been night and day,” he said Monday morning at the club’s spring training complex. “Just my energy level. When I wake up and when I get out of bed and get my day started. Before I used to be in bed until like one o’clock. It’s just different.”
It was certainly an unusual offseason for the 33-year old first baseman heading into the final year of his contract.
Two winters ago, he was the toast of the town after the Red Sox won the 2013 World Series title.
This winter was all about recovery. He spent six weeks on a liquid diet as he recovered from the operation.
Now he’s ready to focus on fitting into a revamped lineup after Boston’s last-place finish.
“There’s a good vibe going around,” said Napoli, known for starting the Beard Brigade that was Boston’s signature look in the run to the championships.
“It feels a little like 2013 in here,” he said. “We’re just having fun. We’re out there working and working hard.”
The Red Sox spent $95 million to sign third baseman Pablo Sandoval and $88 million on Hanley Ramirez, who will shift from shortstop to left field, to give support in the middle of the order to David Ortiz. Napoli will likely bat sixth.
“The proven power hitter obviously has a hefty price tag attached to it,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “Clearly the additions in the offseason have allowed our lineup to add power and to be balanced a little bit more on the left side equally to the right side.
“This has a chance to be a lineup that doesn’t give the opposition too many breathers or take a hitter off — so to speak,” he said. “There’s the ability to do some damage up and down the lineup.”
Last season, Napoli, who has let his hair grow long to accompany the beard, hit .248 with 17 homers and 55 RBIs in an injury-filled year that included a hyperextended finger that bothered him for months and a toe injury that needed offseason surgery.
He hit .259 with 23 homers and 92 RBIs in his first year in Boston.
Napoli isn’t worried about where he’ll hit in that deep middle of the order. He’s just glad to be in Florida.
“I’m glad I got out of there about three weeks ago,” he said, smiling. “My balcony is probably filled with snow.”
NOTES: Farrell didn’t have an update on reports that the Red Sox agreed to a deal with 19-year old Cuban switch-hitting infielder Yoan Moncada. “There’s really nothing to fill you in on,” he said. “I’m aware of the reports that have been broken. I know (GM) Ben Cherington and ownership will be talking to everyone in the upcoming days, but there’s nothing to say about it.” … Ortiz is the only player on the 40-man roster that hasn’t reported yet. Regular players are expected to have their physicals on Tuesday morning, with Ortiz’s scheduled for 9 a.m. “I don’t have an exact arrival date yet,” Farrell said before respoding “yeah” when asked if Ortiz’s expected for his physical. … Farrell also said RHP Felipe Paulino was held out of workouts but had no physical issues.
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