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]."