Napoli enjoys return to Rangers Ballpark

Napoli enjoys return to Rangers Ballpark

ARLINGTON -- Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli was busy before Friday night's game with the Rangers, talking with the media and saying hello to his many former teammates. However, Napoli said it will be business as usual once the game starts during the three-game series this weekend.

Napoli spent two years with the Rangers before signing with the Red Sox in the offseason.

"I don't think it's too weird," Napoli said while sitting in the Red Sox's dugout. "I've been here on the visiting side before. I've got a lot of good friends over there. I think it's going to be fun to compete against them. I think it's going to be a fun series. You've got two good teams going at it and we'll see what happens.

"I had two great years here, a lot of moments I'll never forget. It's going to be fun. I'm happy to still be playing baseball. I'm going to enjoy it and take it all in."

Napoli left as a free agent after the Rangers declined to make a qualifying offer. He agreed to a three-year, $39 million contract with the Red Sox, but the deal was voided when the required physical examination found Napoli was dealing with a degenerative hip issue.

He later signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Red Sox, but there was also some consideration about re-signing with the Rangers. The biggest thing with the Red Sox was getting a chance to play first base and not have to catch anymore. He has thrived under those conditions and was hitting .283 with six home runs and an American League-leading 31 RBIs going into Friday's game.

"Yeah, it was basically down to here or Boston," Napoli said. "It was just an opportunity I had here to play first every day, not be behind the plate and take the grind, still wasn't really sure how my hips were going to respond. I thought it was the best fit for me in my career and health-wise.

"It feels good. I'm playing some good baseball right now and I'm just going to try and maintain it. My body feels better not being behind the plate. Hopefully that helps out and I don't wear down."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.