FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Garin Cecchini isn’t just chatty. He’s a curious, serious student of the game, with the desire to acquire knowledge and apply it.
In his first big-league camp, the third-base prospect wants to know everything. So on Saturday, he approached Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli and asked him about his routine in batting practice.
“I was really impressed with it,” Cecchini said. “I noticed he’d go the opposite way down the first-base line the first couple of rounds, then kind of move his way into left field. That’s what makes him so good. He has a routine he’s set to every day, and he sticks to it. That’s what gets him out of these slumps we all get in. It makes him a lot more consistent.”
It was a fascinating study: Cecchini, a 22-year-old who has never even played in a Triple-A game, and Napoli, a 32-year-old with a bushy beard, bold tattoos and a legendary, larger-than-life status in the clubhouse built off last year’s magical World Series run. Cecchini came away from their meeting knowing it won’t be their last.
“Awesome guy, awesome guy,” Cecchini said. “It’s really cool because he shoots you straight. And that’s all you want. You want to know the truth. When you ask him a question, you just want to know the truth.
“He gave me the truth of what his routine was, and it’s pretty cool. I don’t think he minds us younger guys. He’s a veteran, and the age difference is big. But he treated me with respect. And that’s all anyone asks for. And I respect that a lot.”
It won’t just be Napoli. It’ll be everybody.
“Once I get deeper into camp, I want to be able to create relationships with them,” he said. “I’m going to try to pick their brains on everything.”
Cecchini appears to be on the fast track after leading the organization’s farm system with a .322 batting average and .443 on-base percentage in 129 games last year (63 with High-A Salem, 66 with Double-A Portland).
In the offseason, according to Peter Gammons, the Marlins inquired about dealing for Cecchini but were rebuffed. The Red Sox added Cecchini to their 40-man roster to protect him in the Rule 5 draft.
Cecchini, a fourth-round draft pick in 2010 and three-time minor league All-Star, was solid in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .277 (18-for-65) to help the Surprise Saguaros to the championship. That’s where Baseball America’s Therron Brockish, a scout and former college coach, started the hype by comparing Cecchini to Wade Boggs and writing that his advanced approach to the game was in the mold of Albert Pujols and Dustin Pedroia.
Cecchini, Baseball America’s No. 6 Red Sox prospect, said he’s not paying much attention to it.
“I don’t really follow that,” he said. “At end of the day, we’re just prospects. We haven’t done anything in baseball. We play minor-league baseball. Until you’re a major leaguer and have done something, you’re a prospect.”
Cecchini said that his time in Arizona was spent primarily working on fielding fundamentals with minor-league infield coordinator Andy Fox.
“We got a chance to get down to the itty-bitty stuff, the details,” Cecchini said. “I think it’s fielding I need to improve on the most. But it’s all things, really. I need to be better at everything. If I was good at everything, I’d be in big leagues right now. So I’m trying to soak in everything from the veterans.”
It’ll be a recurring theme over the next six weeks.
“It’s awe-inspiring being here,” he said. “You’ve grown up watching these guys. At the same time, it’s the same game, you know? It’s the same game you’ve played your whole life -- it’s just a different level. You have to keep in mind that you’re here for a reason. You’re good. You belong.”