FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Boston Red Sox’s starting center field spot remains up for grabs, meaning the club will have an interesting decision to make at the end of spring training.
Jackie Bradley Jr. and Grady Sizemore are battling for the starting gig, which was vacated by Jacoby Ellsbury, who signed with the New York Yankees in free agency. Red Sox manager John Farrell said Saturday at JetBlue Park that Bradley was viewed as the team’s starting center fielder coming into spring training but that Sizemore’s steady progress has added to the competition.
“We came into camp with Jackie (Bradley Jr.) as the guy. We projected him as the starting center fielder and I don’t think anything has radically changed that thought,” Farrell said Saturday. “But we can’t deny the thought that Grady Sizemore has looked very well in camp. We’re still in the process of trying to get our arms around his durability. We’ll extend him a little bit tonight where he’s going to go probably seven (or) eight innings tonight, possibly the full game, so we’re starting to get a little bit more of that test, and the answers to some of those tests.”
Sizemore hasn’t played in a regular-season game since 2011 because of various knee and back injuries. The 31-year-old has had seven surgeries, and he was very much a wild card coming into spring training after signing a one-year deal with the Red Sox over the offseason. Sizemore has cleared every physical hurdle he has faced to this point, though, and the Red Sox — in addition to determining their starting center fielder — will need to decide whether to keep both he and Bradley on the major league roster when the club breaks camp.
“I can’t say that we wouldn’t do that. But there’s also limits to the roster,” Farrell said of potentially starting the regular season with both Bradley and Sizemore on the big league roster. “I think the one thing we’ve benefited from is a deep and talented roster. Early in the season, you want as many of those players as you can. And if that causes decisions one way or the other to keep as many good players as you have, that’s something we’ll arrive at before we break here.”
Keeping both Bradley and Sizemore would require the Red Sox to cut corners elsewhere. The club could carry 11 pitchers instead of 12 or make a move involving Mike Carp, but neither scenario seems like an avenue the Red Sox would like to go down.