FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Lyle Overbay used to be the veteran who could come to camp and simply fine-tune everything, knowing he was going to be the starting first baseman when the season started. Now he's the non-roster invitee aiming for a backup spot, but knowing there are no guarantees.
"It's different," noted Overbay, trying to earn a spot on the Red Sox as Mike Napoli's backup at first base. "For me, I want to get ready for the season, so I still want to play into that where if I have a great spring, I have a great spring. If I don't, it's because I'm getting ready for the season.
"There was one time I had a really good spring. I was being really aggressive with the pitches and all that and I had a really terrible season because I wasn't sitting back on my offspeed. You have to win a job, but it's that fine line. It's something where you have to balance them both."
Overbay is a leading candidate to win a bench spot, but it's not all about him. Some of it comes down to roster construction.
"I know that the reason for the Minor League deal is because they might do something here or there so this doesn't lock them up," Overbay said. "They can't guarantee they won't do anything. Something might come up. I totally understand that. That's the way it goes."
One way Overbay could help himself to win a job is if he proves he can do a decent job in left field -- a position he's never played in the Majors, but will likely get some reps at this spring.
"Well one thing we know, defensively he's a well-above average first baseman," said manager John Farrell. "As far as the positional fit, we're looking for that left-handed first baseman, or a player that can play first base as a left-handed bat, to be able to spell a guy in left field potentially.
"We may even see Lyle in left field just to take a look at that, to answer that potential question that we have. Other than that, he's got a track record of performance. Even though he's gotten into more of a reserve or limited role the past couple years, he's accustomed to it. I don't know that we can just say [it comes down to] what Lyle is going to do. It's also going to be in conjunction with everybody else that is being looked at in that spot."
Though Overbay's playing time has decreased in recent years, he hasn't let up with his workout routine. If anything, he's doing more.
"Last year I lost a lot of weight," Overbay said. "You're getting older, so you have to do something different. Just losing some extra pounds, you're not dragging as much. It was actually during the season last year. I knew I wasn't going to play every day, so I got into doing a lot of cardio. I felt great. My legs felt great when I did it."
A left-handed hitter, Overbay's stroke could get rewarded at Fenway.
"A lot of balls I hit, the center fielder runs it down," Overbay said. "But if the center fielder runs out of room, that helps me. That's why I think it plays a bigger role [than other parks]."
Farrell will go with only relievers against collegians
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox will play their first exhibition games on Thursday -- seven-inning games against Northeastern University and Boston College.
However, you aren't likely to see any starting pitchers in those games. Instead, manager John Farrell will start wheeling his rotation out with the start of Grapefruit League games on Saturday.
"On the two college games, that will serve as somewhat of an intrasquad type game for us," said Farrell. "You'll see a number of guys go to the mound for one inning. Mostly guys that are in camp as relievers on those first two days. You'll probably see 14 different pitchers run to the mound on Thursday."
The regular position players will be divided between the two games, probably getting about two at-bats each.
Napoli gets some fielding drills in at first
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Mike Napoli started easing into his new job as Boston's starting first baseman by doing defensive drills for the first time during camp. The right-handed hitter had to wait a little bit to make sure his most recent MRI on his hips came back clean.
"He took ground balls after BP today, so we'll gradually build that up," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "Fifty ground balls at first today."
While Napoli's primary position has been as a catcher during his career, Farrell has already seen enough to think it will be a relatively seamless transition to first.
"He's got very soft hands," Farrell said. "Even when you watch him take BP, his movements are smooth. We're confident that he's going to be a very good first baseman."
Drew showing he's over ankle injury
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The more you see shortstop Stephen Drew going about his workouts, the more it becomes clear he is over the fractured right ankle that still hindered him during much of last season.
Drew is moving well from field to field, whether it is defensive drills or baserunning.
"There seems to be no ill effects of the ankle injury," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "Through his ground ball work to the team defense that we've run through so far, he's very particular in just looking for feedback whether it's in between rounds of BP, to where the ball carries across the infield, trying to generate the exact rotation and backspin to keep it true. He's pretty meticulous in his work."
Farrell, who was Boston's pitching coach during four of J.D. Drew's five seasons with the Red Sox, noticed something different about the younger Drew.
"[Stephen] talks a lot more than J.D.," quipped Farrell.
Are their swings similar?
"Well, it's similar in the standpoint that, when I think about J.D. Drew and then I think about when Stephen was with the Diamondbacks, you could try to set up fastballs to both guys and they would never come off it," Farrell said. "They were always geared to the fastball. As much as you tried to change speeds on guys, they would always be geared to whatever velocity was being thrown on the mound that day. And that's how I view Stephen right now."