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Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Former bosses high on Napoli

By Joe McDonald

NASHVILLE – When news broke Monday morning that the Boston Red Sox and Mike Napoli agreed on a three-year deal worth $39 million, many Red Sox players expressed their excitement.

Even a pair of Napoli’s former managers weighed in on the type of player he is both on and off the field.

"Tremendous. Tremendous character,” said Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington. “He’s a winner. It’s unfortunate things didn’t work out here, but we do wish him well in Boston.”

Napoli was one of the primary targets for a few teams, including Texas and Boston. Since he ultimately landed with the Red Sox, Texas will need to find a way to fill the void both offensively and defensively.

"It’s always an impact when you lose a bat that supplies you with power, and hopefully with that power supplies runs,” Washington said. “But we’ve always been a group of guys that go between the lines and we play for each other. We’ll move on and hopefully someone else can pick up the slack and we wish Mike Napoli all the luck in the world.”

Napoli spent two seasons with the Rangers and last year played a total of 108 games, including 72 at catcher, 28 at first base and nine as DH. He did have some injury issues, spending Aug. 11 thru Sept. 14 on the DL and missing a total of 33 games with a left quad strain. It was the least amount of games he had played in the last four seasons.

“I think things that happened to Nap were freak because he plays the game extremely hard. He’s a winner,” Washington said. “Like I said earlier, he’s no longer a Texas Ranger and I don’t want to get into trying to assess Napoli because he’s not here.”

Before his two seasons in Texas, Napoli spent five years with the Angels, where current Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon served as a coach.

"I love Nap,” Maddon said. “He came on a couple of years in Texas. What makes him great is acceptance of the opposite field. He became much more difficult with two strikes. Nap’s always had severe power.

“I remember working on him at the backfields at Diablo, just trying to clean up some things back then, because of this enormous power, but there was a lot of swing and missing, too. He’s made some really great adjustments. He’s a makeup guy like Jonny [Gomes] is. Not as outspoken as Jonny, maybe not as flamboyant in a sense, but a man’s man kind of thing. He’s going to be great in the clubhouse. Nap is a good catcher. Pitchers like him.”

Maddon admitted that Napoli probably won’t catch as much in Boston, but having he and Gomes on the same team will help the Red Sox, he said.

“Both of them together are going to bring a lot of positives to that clubhouse,” Maddon said. “There’s no doubt. And that’s good for the Red Sox.”