BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox are keeping an open mind in regard to Grady Sizemore.
Sizemore signed a one-year contract with the Red Sox on Wednesday, and the expectation is that the injury-plagued outfielder will compete with Jackie Bradley Jr. for playing time in center field. Nothing is etched in stone, though, as general manager Ben Cherington said Thursday that the Red Sox are going to evaluate Sizemore as they go.
“We’re not going to put any limitation on it, certainly,” Cherington said regarding Sizemore’s role with the Red Sox. “We certainly see a lot of potential, and I don’t think he’s putting any limitations on himself. He knows how good he can be when he’s feeling good physically and when he’s out there. We’re going to do whatever we can to give him that opportunity, and we’ll just have to see. We weren’t making any proclamations on what the Opening Day roster was before signing Grady, and we’re not going to do that now. But we’re certainly glad he’s here.”
Sizemore, whose contract carries a base salary of $750,000 and could jump to $6 million if all incentives are met, represents an intriguing low-risk, high-reward option for the Red Sox. The 31-year-old hasn’t played in the majors since 2011 and hasn’t played a full season since 2008, but he absolutely is capable of making an impact on the diamond, evidenced by his three consecutive All-Star selections with the Cleveland Indians from 2006 to 2008.
“Everyone here knows who he was when he was in his prime, certainly in that peak period that he had with Cleveland, and that player fits on any team, including ours, certainly,” Cherington said. “So what we need to learn from spring training, or what he needs to learn, is sort of how he feels as he gets back into baseball, everyday baseball activity [and] gets back into games. That’s going to tell us a lot about what make sense — what makes sense for him, what makes sense for us.”
Initially, it looked like Bradley was going to be Jacoby Ellsbury’s successor in center field in 2014. That might still be the case when the Red Sox break camp, but the young outfielder now will be forced to earn his job in spring training, as Sizemore should add some healthy competition to the Boston outfield.
“We just felt like he was a good fit and made sense — made sense to Grady, made sense to us,” Cheringon said. “We bring in a guy who obviously has been a great player in the league and has missed some time, so what we’re looking to do is just try to put him in the best position we can to resume his playing career. I think he’ll know more about how he feels as we get into March and spring training and we’ll know the same, and we’ll see how it goes.”
Sizemore, once considered one of the best all-around players in baseball, posted career-highs in home runs (33), RBIs (90) and stolen bases (38) during his last full season in 2008. The five-tool outfielder has since battled various knee and back injuries, limiting him to just 104 games since the beginning of the 2010 season. Expectations certainly should be tempered, although Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes pointed out Thursday that Sizemore paved the way for duel-threat center fielders and could make an impact if/when he’s back to 100 percent.
“In his heyday, he was one of the big pieces that kind of kicked off the 30-30 center fielder guy. Now, that’s almost expected,” Gomes said. “You look at like the [Andrew] McCutchen’s and the [Mike] Trout’s and the Curtis Granderson’s. But from my time, it was Grady. The one thing in this game, you can’t help someone’s health, so hopefully he gets back on track. I work out with him every day [in Arizona], and he’s in there grinding.”
Sizemore already has a working relationship with Red Sox manager John Farrell and bench coach Torey Lovullo from his days in Cleveland, so the outfielder’s transition to Boston should be seamless, even if his 2014 role still is very much undefined.
“There’s some relationships in place, so we were trying to present a program that we thought would give him the best chance to come back and play. I think that’s what he was attracted to more than anything,” Cherington said. “We’ll go to work and it’ll be fun to see him out there. Again, we were just looking to add to our outfield picture and add to the competition.”
Let the competition begin, and let’s see where it takes the Red Sox.
Photo via Facebook/Grady Sizemore