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Napoli 'moving forward' after good medical news

Ready to increase workload after MRI reveals hip condition has stabilized

Napoli 'moving forward' after good medical news play video for Napoli 'moving forward' after good medical news

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- No news was good news on the Mike Napoli front on Saturday.

Napoli received the results of the MRI he took this week as part of his spring physical, and told reporters that nothing had changed with his hip condition.

"That's a good thing," Napoli said. "The medicine is working and the doctors were happy with the MRI. I'm going to be able to move forward."

Moving forward, in this instance, means Napoli immediately beginning to take ground balls from his knees at first base and increasing his running program on the treadmill.

"I'm excited," Napoli said. "It's a fun time."

Little has been fun on the medical front for Napoli since a December physical with the Red Sox led to a diagnosis of avasular necrosis, a disease that restricts blood flow into the bones. Though Napoli has reported no pain from the condition, it was serious enough to lead to a major reconstruction of the contract the player and team had initially agreed upon -- and the Red Sox will use Napoli solely as a first baseman and not behind the plate.

General manager Ben Cherington said the club's medical staff was still mapping out a plan for easing Napoli into full activity. But what is certain, for now, is that neither Napoli nor David Ortiz, who is still recovering from last summer's Achilles tendon strain, will be participating in the first few games of the Grapefruit League schedule. Both are expected to be ready by Opening Day.

"We're much more concerned about the 162-game schedule," said Cherington, "than we are about the Spring Training schedule."

Napoli made it clear that his condition hasn't improved, it's merely stabilized. But that, in and of itself, is good news.

"It's only been six weeks of the medication," Napoli said. "The doctors said it can get better over time, but it's probably going to take a year or maybe more for it to get better on the medication. But it's doing what we wanted. It's staying the same, and we're moving forward."

Going forward, Napoli will continue to have periodic MRI scans to monitor his condition, Cherington said. Napoli will also use this spring camp to adapt to the particulars of playing his position on a full-time basis.

"When I was catching, I would take ground balls every once in a while -- just to stay fresh," Napoli said. "I wasn't working on too many things. I'm not really worried about it. I've played infield before. I had a conversation with [third-base and infielders coach] Brian Butterfield about what I feel comfortable with and what I need to work on. I'm going to do everything I can to make myself better."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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