BOSTON — Grady Sizemore is as mild-mannered as they come. But even he couldn’t help but show some emotion Tuesday after connecting on his first walk-off hit since 2006.
Sizemore followed back-to-back singles from David Ortiz and Mike Napoli with a lined shot off the base of the Green Monster in the 12th inning to give the Boston Red Sox a 4-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. The extra-inning heroics capped an encouraging performance for Sizemore, who still is adapting to life back in the majors following a layoff of nearly three years.
“I think every first that he goes through this year — first being since he was an everyday player — I’ve got to believe he’s feeling like the game is coming back to him in a way and he’s doing some things he hasn’t done for quite a while,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said following Tuesday’s win. “But to walk things off, I’ve got to feel like tonight gives him even further feeling like he’s contributing here rather than being someone coming back from an injury.”
Sizemore signed with the Red Sox over the offseason and entered spring training as a wild card. Strong play and a clean bill of health helped Sizemore earn a roster spot, but the regular season has presented challenges for the 31-year-old, who opened the year with an April in which he batted .191 with a .263 on-base percentage.
“I knew I was going to go through ups and downs,” Sizemore said Tuesday. “You’re not going to be gone as long as I have and expect everything to be smooth all year. You just try to minimize (the struggles) and try to find a way to get out of it as soon as possible.”
Sizemore is beginning to show signs of improvement. He’s hitting .368 (7-for-19) with four RBIs and two doubles in five May contests — including Tuesday’s game, in which he went 3-for-6 with two RBIs. The strides likely stem from the veteran settling into his new role as a platoon player after spending the beginning of his career as an everyday player with the Cleveland Indians.
“The role he finds himself in here is a little bit different than what he’s been accustomed to,” Farrell said. “But he’s an outstanding team player, he understands Jonny Gomes is going to be in left field against left-handers, he stays prepared — his mindset is he comes to the ballpark thinking he’s going to play every day. Nights like tonight go a long way in continuing to rebuild Grady.”
Sizemore said after Tuesday’s win that adjusting to his new role hasn’t been difficult, as the extra rest actually has been beneficial in keeping him 100 percent. Sizemore still is a work in progress, though, and things finally seem to be coming together over the last week or so.
“Considering everything else I’ve gone through, this is easy, this is fun,” Sizemore said. “You’ve just got to go out there and play and continue to work.”
Hard work often pays off. It certainly did Tuesday, when even one of the most reserved players on the Red Sox needed to dish out a couple of fist pumps following an emotional win.
“I was pretty excited,” Sizemore said of the walk-off. “It was a good feeling. I try not to get too emotional out there. I try to keep it on the same level. But right there, I let it out a little bit.”
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