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Sports

December 14, 2013

Napoli happy with speedy contract agreement

BOSTON — Mike Napoli showed the Boston Red Sox he could have a strong season despite a hip condition that delayed his signing a year ago.

So they rushed to re-sign the first baseman who general manager Ben Cherington described Friday as “a unique player.”

The World Series champions finalized a $32 million, two-year agreement Thursday with the slugging former catcher who turned into a surprisingly good defender.

“It was clearly one of our priorities,” Cherington said in a conference call. “When we pursued Mike last year and ultimately signed him we did that because we felt like his skill set would obviously help us on the field and we also heard a lot about his reputation as a teammate.”

After agreeing to a $39 million, three-year contract last December, the Red Sox heard about his avascular necrosis condition in both hips that can cause bone tissue to die because of poor blood supply. About six weeks later, in late January, a $5 million, one-year deal was reached. With performance bonuses, Napoli ended up making $13 million.

His new contract has no provisions protecting the team against hip problems, Cherington said.

The 32-year-old Napoli was eager to return to the city he excited with his homers and bushy beard.

“After going through what I went through last year, it was definitely a relief to just go through this,” he said. “I’m happy to be back. I wanted to be in a place where I was comfortable and somewhere where we can win.”

Fears about his hips were unfounded, at least for last season. The eight-year veteran had career highs in at bats, run, hits, doubles, RBIs, walks and strikeouts and made just six errors in his first full season as a first baseman.

He also had a good time bonding with his beard-tugging teammates.

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