Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley Jr. will be at the heart of an interesting positional battle during Boston Red Sox spring training.
The Red Sox signed Sizemore to a one-year contract Wednesday, perhaps paving the way for an open competition in center field. Bradley appeared to have the starting job in his grasp once Jacoby Ellsbury signed with the New York Yankees, but Sizemore, who hasn’t played in the majors since 2011, represents an intriguing alternative because of his previous big league success.
“We added Grady because one, he’s available, and two, it provides some competition,” Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters Wednesday after the team’s annual town hall. “And yet we have to see once we get to spring training, Grady’s tolerance physically. We don’t have a projected number of games that we look at that he might be available for. We have to gradually build that up, build his endurance up. That’s how spring training will be spent with him.”
Sizemore has played in just 104 games since the beginning of the 2010 season because of various knee and back injuries, so his potential impact is difficult to gauge. The 31-year-old has three All-Star selections and two Gold Gloves on his resume, though, so it’s possible that he could emerge from Fort Myers as the Red Sox’ starting center fielder if Bradley, who struggled offensively for much of 2013, fails to show steady progress. If Bradley wins the job in camp, Sizemore will give the Red Sox a legitimate backup center fielder — something Boston lacked until Wednesday.
“It doesn’t take Jackie out of the mix at all,” Farrell said of Wednesday’s move. “There’s questions that we have to answer in spring training with our roster. So the fact of Grady signing and being added to our roster doesn’t remove Jackie from [starting consideration]. I think one of the things that [general manager] Ben [Cherington] and all of us have set out to [do] in these final weeks before spring training is add to the depth of our team, and Grady certainly does that right now.”
Sizemore, who posted career-highs in home runs (33), RBIs (90) and stolen bases (38) in his last full season in 2008, said Wednesday that he has enjoyed a normal offseason of running, training and baseball activities. The Red Sox likely won’t rush the veteran given his injury history, but things could heat up once spring training games get underway in just over a month.