Grady Sizemore’s ‘Exciting’ Opening Day An Encouraging Sign For Red Sox

Grady SizemoreGrady Sizemore carried his spring training momentum into Opening Day.

Sizemore, playing in his first regular-season game since Sept. 22, 2011, went 2-for-4 with a home run and a single in the Boston Red Sox’s 2-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Monday. The strong performance was a bright spot in the Red Sox’s season-opening defeat and offered even more proof that Sizemore could be an impact player this season despite missing more than two years with various injuries.

“It’s pretty incredible. But he showed signs in spring training that he can do that,” said Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli, who had a front-row seat for Sizemore’s big day. “It’s one of the reasons why he made the club. He’s got a lot of talent. If the guy stays healthy, he can be a big part of this team.”

Sizemore beat out Jackie Bradley Jr. for the Red Sox’s starting center field job — Bradley has since been recalled to replace the injured Shane Victorino — with a tremendous spring, and the 31-year-old wasted no time in leaving his mark on a game that actually counted. Sizemore singled in his first at-bat in the second inning Monday — yanking a pitch located away into right field — and then launched his first home run since July 15, 2011, in the fourth inning to briefly tie the game at one apiece.

“Today was very exciting. I couldn’t wait to get to the ballpark,” Sizemore told reporters in Baltimore after Monday’s game. “I was up first thing in the morning and definitely had a better appreciation for the game and all the little things that go into it. I think every day I’ve been here since spring training has been gratifying. I’m just happy to be back, happy to be healthy, looking forward to getting the opportunity to play and help contribute.”

Sizemore’s strong Opening Day effort didn’t surprise manager John Farrell, who has seen the veteran outfielder go from being a wild card when he was signed back in January to being a player who could play an important role on a contending team.

“He’s continued what he did in spring training, and that’s show very good timing at the plate,” Farrell said. “…The last home run (he hit) was here in Camden Yards, that’s pretty ironic that it takes place here once again. But he showed very well.”

Performances like Monday’s might soon become the norm for Sizemore, who was an All-Star for three straight seasons with the Cleveland Indians from 2006 to 2008. If so, it’ll provide a huge boost to a Red Sox team that already is without Victorino, who was one of Boston’s most valuable contributors last season.

For now, the Red Sox and Sizemore will continue to temper expectations, realizing that it’s one game and that a 162-game grind presents a major challenge for a player coming off seven surgeries. But there are plenty of reasons for the Red Sox to be optimistic about Sizemore as the regular season gets into full swing.