FORT MYERS, Fla. -- First baseman Lyle Overbay was not quite an afterthought for the Red Sox, but he was close.
“It was late," said Overbay, who on Jan. 31 signed a minor league contract with the team, with an invitation to big league camp.
“They were kind of going down the line, losing out on guys. I guess if you wait long enough and they lose out enough, the opportunity comes about."
With the uncertainty regarding Mike Napoli’s hip, the 36-year-old Overbay, who has lived something of a gypsy existence in baseball the last few seasons, gives the Sox potential insurance at the position and a possible backup.
“In the beginning, I was saying I need Napoli to sign with Boston and then I can give him a day or something," said Overbay.
Overbay’s career has been in eclipse since a five-year run as the Blue Jays’ every-day first baseman ended after the 2010 season. He has been with three teams since -- the Pirates, Diamondbacks and Braves -- and made just 131 plate appearances last season.
“It’s been different," he said. “I knew last year going in, I knew my role. In a perfect world, you want to play more, but at this point it’s like, what’s more important: Do I want to be miserable and lose 150 games or have a chance to win a World Series? That’s a big plus for me, if I can be part of that."
He said he doesn’t want that chance at any expense to Napoli, who won’t be cleared to take ground balls at first base until he undergoes another MRI.
“I don’t think anybody knows," Overbay said when asked about how playing time at first base might be impacted. “I know he’s got the hip disease. I don’t think he knows. There’s that possibility [he might be limited].
“I didn’t look at it that way. I’d love to see him play 162 games, and play 81 games at Fenway. I’ve seen a lot of fly balls in Anaheim Stadium [Napoli began his career with the Angels] that were at the warning track, and those things are gone in Fenway.
“I’m just interested in seeing what he can do there. Him in that lineup will make everyone better," said Overbay. "I didn’t come in here thinking and hoping he’s injured, anything like that. Potentially, I might have had an opportunity with someone else, where I might have had more playing time, but I’d rather have this."
To that end, Overbay said he has spoken to the Sox about taking fly balls in the outfield, if that would increase his chances of making the club. He grew up as an outfielder and played maybe three games as a first baseman, all in Legion ball, before being drafted by Arizona and told he’d be playing first base.
“I said, ‘You got a first baseman’s glove, because I don’t,'" he said. “I’m willing to play the [outfield]. If it’s something that helps my cause, I’m all ears. I’m game."