FORT MYERS, Fla. -- This was not the offseason Mike Napoli had intended, spending much of his time soliciting opinions from doctors while trying to learn as much as he could about avascular necrosis, the serious hip condition that the Red Sox discovered during a physical exam last December.
That physical was supposed to be the last perfunctory step before he signed a three-year, $39 million deal with the Sox, the first multiyear contract of his career. Instead, it cast into doubt not only his professional career, but his overall well-being.
“It was definitely tough, but the Red Sox, they stuck with me,’’ said Napoli, who eventually signed an incentive-laden one-year, $5 million contract with the Sox. “It took so long because I had to go see about my health. I had to look at my health before my professional career.’’
Avascular necrosis, known by its acronym AVN and also known as osteonecrosis (ON), is a progressive, degenerative disorder that kills bone tissue. According to AVNSupport.org, it is caused by a blockage or loss of blood flow to a joint or bone, causing the joint/bone to die.
Surgery was one option considered, Napoli said Tuesday.
“There were a lot of different options,’’ he said. “I could have had surgery where they drill into my bone and inject blood. That didn’t make any sense when I didn’t have any symptoms. I’ve never felt this. I’ve never had any problem with this. I’ve never been on the DL for it.’’
Napoli traced many of his physical problems last in season in Texas, where his batting average fell from .320 to .227, to the severely sprained ankle he sustained during the 2011 World Series. He said when the Rangers lost the Series, he didn’t immediately attend to the ankle, and only two weeks later placed it in a boot.
“I rehabbed it,’’ he said, “but it wasn’t 100 percent going into the spring. I just taped it and went out there. I had a little hip labrum since 2009. That started bothering me. My whole left side bothered me.’’
He eventually strained his left quadriceps in a home-plate collision and missed 34 games.
“But I had a good offseason,’’ he said. “I’m healthy, no problems. I do all the stuff for my hips and legs, and no problem.’’
Still, the Red Sox plan to limit him to hitting while restricting any activity that involves any hard impact or pounding, manager John Farrell said Tuesday.
“He’ll go through another MRI later this week for an update," Farrell said. "Provided everything goes as we anticipate at this point, then we’ll start to introduce more baseball activities, including the defensive side.”
Farrell said he expects Napoli to start to get some reps at first base either by the end of the weekend or early next week.
“It was pretty tough,’’ Napoli said. “When you go from a three-year contract to all of a sudden you don’t have a job and [wonder] where you’re going to play, it was tough. But I got a pretty strong head. I try to take the positive out of everything, come here and do the best I can, stay healthy, and go from there.’’