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Farrell not concerned over Napoli stalemate

BOSTON -- At a time of year where managers like to plot out potential starting lineups on a paper napkin, John Farrell has one key spot that remains uncertain.

While the Red Sox certainly hope to have Mike Napoli in the middle of their batting order and playing first base by the time camp opens, there are no guarantees until a contract is actually signed.

However, Farrell isn't fretting over the situation. Instead, he continues to work on matters that are under his control.

"It's understood," said Farrell, who was a guest at Theo Epstein's Hot Stove/Cool Music baseball roundtable Friday. "This isn't like it's a major surprise at this point. I have the utmost confidence that this question will be answered in due time. We're working through it."

Whether or not Napoli eventually comes on board, Farrell looks at the newcomers (Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew, Ryan Dempster, etc.) that will join the existing core (Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Will Middlebrooks, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester) and is excited about what is in store.

"As far as the overall roster, I like what we have right now, certainly on paper," said Farrell. "Not only are they a talented group, but it's a group that's had a very strong history of being solid team players."

The hold-up over the Napoli situation is related to health concerns -- in particularly the hip -- stemming from a physical in Boston back in December.

Epstein lived through a similar situation with J.D. Drew back in December 2006. At the time, he agreed to terms with the right fielder on a five-year, $70 million pact.

But the physical revealed some elbow issues the Red Sox worried about, and the contract took 52 days to complete.

During that stalemate, Epstein wound up sending flowers to Drew's wife as kind of a peace offering.

"In the situation we had with Drew, you talk it through, try to use a lot of empathy, make sure he knows you realize it's an awkward situation and it's as awkward for them as it is for you," Epstein said. "Just keep talking and try to find a mutually agreeable solution and remember that fairness is important.

"Leverage can go back and forth at different times during the negotiations, but it's always important to remember that fairness matters in the end. You're going to do lots of deals with the agent over the years. It's how you treat the player that matters as well. From what I know about [Red Sox general manager] Ben [Cherington], that's never an issue. He's always locked in on being fair to everybody."

Cherington was also a guest at Epstein's event Friday, but didn't have anything new to report on the Napoli situation.

Asked by a fan when Napoli would be signed, Cherington offered, "Hopefully soon."

In the meantime, he will stay in contact with Napoli and his representatives while also exploring options outside the organization.

Eventually, Farrell will know for sure who his first baseman is.

"Well, Mauro Gomez is on our roster now," Farrell said. "Obviously Mark Hamilton is a young guy that we've signed. We're all well aware of the certain situation that's still being worked through. I know Ben is doing whatever he possibly can so that when we report to Spring Training, we've got that position answered."

Boston Red Sox, Mike Napoli