TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -Mike Napoli hurled an insult at Jeff Mathis in the adjacent locker, and Mathis fired right back. Both grimaced, then broke out laughing.
The two young catchers are pals in what could be an awkward situation, competing for the Los Angeles Angels' starting job. They have many other things in common, including they both want a World Series ring, regardless of who is behind the plate.
Mathis said Napoli, a fellow Floridian, was his first friend in the pros.
``When I signed, they had a minicamp right after the draft. He was the first guy I ever met in professional baseball,'' Mathis said of their encounter in 2001. ``I got to the apartment and met him, and ever since then, we've been friends.
``We like the same things. We hang out.''
Both are considered good defensive catchers with potential on offense.
The 24-year-old Mathis got 52 starts as a rookie last season when the Angels traded Jose Molina to the New York Yankees and Napoli was sidelined for 44 games because of a high ankle sprain.
Mathis, recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake on July 2, hit .211 with four homers and 23 RBIs in 59 games for Los Angeles.
The 26-year-old Napoli, who had two stints on the disabled list, batted .247 with 10 homers and 34 RBIs in 75 games last year, his sophomore season in the majors.
Vying for the same job hasn't strained their friendship.
``The bond that we've established, baseball is aside when we leave the field,'' Mathis said. ``When he's out there on the field, I'm cheering for him, and he's doing the same when I'm out there.''
Said Napoli: ``We push each other, try to make each other better. It never comes between us. We're trying to win here. We're not looking at it as we're in competition against each other; we're both trying to reach that ultimate goal.
``It's all about winning.''
The fact the two cooperate, discussing the Angels' pitchers and opposing batters, obviously benefits each of them.
``A lot of the times, there's stuff that I don't see that he might see, and we go over all that,'' Mathis said.
Manager Mike Scioscia, a former catcher, said the two make each other better.
``They became friends first and, secondly they're competitors who both want to catch every day. But that's not getting in the way of their friendship or anything that they do,'' Scioscia said. ``Everything they do, they push each other and they both want to be the best they can be.
``The bottom line for them is winning. Although they'd like to be the guy who catches 140 games, more important to them is our team and what we achieve.''
There are, of course, differences between Mathis, from Marianna, Fla., and Napoli, from Hollywood, Fla. Mathis hunts, Napoli fishes.
``I'm starting to get him to hunt a little bit,'' said Mathis, who bagged an eight-point deer and another 11-pointer over the winter.
Napoli, who has landed an 80-pound fish, said, ``I'm trying to get him to come down to South Florida and get out on the water.''
Between the two of them, they don't need to buy much in the meat and fish department.
``Yeah, we can put it on the table,'' Mathis said.

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