Grady Sizemore‘s deal with the Boston Red Sox represents a new beginning for the 31-year-old outfielder.
Sizemore, one of baseball’s most talented all-around players until injuries began to derail his career in 2009, has signed a one-year contract with the Red Sox for the 2014 season. Sizemore, who hasn’t played in the majors since 2011, will compete with Jackie Bradley Jr. in spring training for Boston’s starting center field job, although it’s the opportunity to simply get back on the diamond that the three-time All-Star is relishing.
“Honestly, I’m looking for an opportunity to play. It wasn’t really looking for a place for center field,” Sizemore said during a conference call Wednesday. “It was more just looking for an opportunity to get in the outfield and fit in anyway the team needed me to. I thought it was a good opportunity to be a part of the team and I thought that it was one of those things where I was looking to fit in any way that I could.”
Sizemore has appeared in just 104 games since 2009 because of various knee and back injuries, but the former Cleveland Indians outfielder said Wednesday that he has had a normal offseason of running, training and baseball activities. The next step is for Sizemore to enter spring training and further prepare for game action with the ultimate goal of earning a roster spot with the defending World Series champions.
“Obviously, they’re a great team and who wouldn’t want to be a part of this group of guys and this organization?” Sizemore said. “Medically, they did a good job of laying out a game plan for me. There’s a plan in place to keep me on the field and keep me healthy throughout the year.”
If healthy, Sizemore certainly has the potential to win the starting center field job, even if he’s not the MVP-caliber player he was during his last full season in 2008, when he posted career-highs in home runs (33), RBIs (90) and stolen bases (38). After all, Sizemore is young enough to bounce back and talented enough that teams maintained interest during his time on the shelf, which spanned the better part of five years.
“Yeah, it’s been frustrating,” Sizemore said of missing so much time. “No one likes dealing with injuries and I’ve had my fair share. You know, hopefully that’s behind me now and I’m looking forward to just kind of moving on and starting the second half of my career.”
The second half of Sizemore’s career could begin with a bench spot if Bradley ultimately wins the starting job out of camp. The veteran still could play an important role with the Red Sox, though, as manager John Farrell showed last season that he’s not afraid to unload his bench. Plus, the Red Sox were without a true backup center fielder until signing Sizemore, so any prolonged struggles by Bradley would have put the Red Sox in a bind. Sizemore, while a wild card, should at least serve as valuable depth.
“I think I won’t really know how I feel until I get out there and you’re grinding every day,” Sizemore said. “You can only do so much from a rehab standpoint or an offseason program. Baseball season starts, you’re on your feet every day, it’s long hours. When I get in that kind of format I guess, and see how I react when I’m pounding it every day week in and week out, that’s kind of like the final test.”
The Red Sox are a deeper team with Sizemore in the mix. It’s even possible that the Red Sox — who will pay Sizemore a base salary of $750,000 and up to $6 million based on incentives — might have acquired the offseason’s biggest sleeper.