Grady Sizemore will be the Boston Red Sox’s Opening Day center fielder, manager John Farrell said Friday.
Farrell told reporters in Fort Myers that Sizemore has won the Red Sox’s center field battle. Sizemore had been competing with Jackie Bradley Jr., who will be optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket, according to Farrell.
Sizemore hasn’t played in a regular-season game since 2011 because of injuries, so the 31-year-old was a wild card when the Red Sox signed him in January. The veteran outfielder has cleared every physical hurdle to this point, though, while also producing at a high level during spring training.
Farrell said Sizemore, who this week played three straight games for the first time this spring, won’t bat leadoff to begin the year. Sizemore instead will bat in the middle of the order when the Red Sox open the regular season in Baltimore on Monday.
Sizemore entered Friday with a .333 average (13-for-39) and .842 OPS in 12 Grapefruit League games. More importantly, he responded favorably to playing in three straight games, passing what seemed to be the final test in him being named the Red Sox’s starting center fielder.
It remains to be seen what Sizemore will provide in 2014, but the three-time All-Star once was one of baseball’s best all-around players with the Cleveland Indians. Sizemore, who earned All-Star selections each year from 2006 to 2008, has won two Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger in his eight-year career. He posted career-highs of 33 homers, 90 RBIs and 38 stolen bases in 2008 — his last full season in the majors.
Bradley, who entered camp as the frontrunner for the Red Sox’s center field job, will head to Triple-A for more seasoning after a shaky spring. The 23-year-old hit .158 (9-for-57) with a .476 OPS and 17 strikeouts in 19 Grapefruit League games.
Shane Victorino and Daniel Nava, in addition to serving in their usual roles, will back up Sizemore in center field to begin the season.