Turns out, Bo knows all about Mike Napoli's hip problem.
A physical exam administered by the Boston Red Sox in December showed that Napoli is afflicted by "avascular necrosis," the slugger revealed Jan. 22 after finalizing a greatly reduced contract to be the team's primary first baseman. The medical condition, which can lead to bone death and degeneration, exists in both of Napoli's hips, according to agent Brian Grieper, and was the reason the Red Sox insisted on renegotiating the three-year, $39 million contract that was agreed upon Dec. 3 into an incentive-laden, one-year deal worth only $5 million guaranteed.
AVN led to Bo Jackson's retirement from baseball and football, and NHL goalie Ray Emery continued playing only after undergoing a complicated bone graft. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington noted the situation isn't nearly as far along for Napoli as it was for Jackson, with Grieper suggesting Napoli's case of AVN was caught early. Cherington said the Red Sox are confident Napoli won't be adversely impacted in 2013.
"I have no symptoms of it," Napoli said. "We really don't know what causes it. We saw a bunch of doctors, got a bunch of opinions and went from there. I got on medication. There's no reason I shouldn't be healthy and ready to go for Opening Day."
Napoli said he has consulted Dr. Joseph Lane at New York's Hospital for Special Surgery. According to Grieper, the condition wasn't spotted on an MRI administered by the Texas Rangers last March or during any ensuing physical until Napoli saw Boston's medical staff. It developed at some point last season, although Napoli didn't miss time with any hip-related injuries.
The Red Sox believe Napoli's move to first base will reduce the stress on his hip. Napoli has spent most of his career as a catcher.
"We don't have a lot of concern about 2013," Cherington said. "There's no reason that Mike Napoli won't be our primary first baseman in 2013. That's what we're counting on. There's no reason that won't happen starting Opening Day."
Clearly, though, the potential long-term complications from AVN caused the Red Sox enough alarm that they revised their original agreement.
"Throughout the process, our hope and intent was to sign Mike Napoli," Cherington said. "We wanted him to be on our team, and we also wanted to try and be as supportive and helpful as possible as we all gathered information on this and figured out the right course for Mike that puts him in the best position possible to do what he's always done, and that's to be a really good baseball player, a really good hitter.
"It's very important to note that, although this condition is less common in baseball players that some other issues, from all the information that's been gathered, this has been caught very early. We're a long way ahead from Bo Jackson. Bo Jackson's circumstance was entirely different. From all the information we have, there's a good prognosis."