CLEARWATER, Fla. — Grady Sizemore may or may not be the starting center fielder for the Red Sox when they take the field on March 31 at Camden Yards in Baltimore. But John Farrell made it clear that at some point, likely early in the season, when he does start to play, he’ll be the starting center fielder to stay.
“We have every reason to believe at this point that he is a likely candidate to become an every day player, with durability on his side at some point,” Farrell said of the veteran outfielder who is batting .360 in eight games this spring.
Recovering from chronic knee and back ailments over the past two seasons, Sizemore came into camp not having played a competitive game since Sept. 2011. Sizemore, who’s also had a sports hernia and a bad elbow, has impressed coaches and fans alike with athletic plays in the field and a compact, efficient swing at the plate.
“There’s a progression we’re following to get to everyday play but the most encouraging thing is he has not hit the proverbial wall where we’ve bumped up against the limits and have to pull back,” Farrell said before Friday’s game against Philadelphia at Bright House Field. “We haven’t reached that yet, which is all extremely positive.”
Sizemore played in all nine innings for the first time Thursday against the Yankees and Farrell said he came through it very well and is on schedule to return to the field in a minor league game Saturday. He’ll play for the Red Sox again on Sunday and Monday and be evaluated on Tuesday morning to see how he handled the three straight games and five in six days.
“The medical exam, the medical information is guiding us with a progression. But every piece of feedback from the medical staff has been positive with the end thought that he’ll become an every day player,” Farrell said. “”There’s no template. That why we have experts in [Sports Medical Director] Dan Dyrek and our medical staff that give us that guidance.”
Despite the encouraging tone, Farrell still would not commit to Sizemore even heading north with the team when they break camp on Saturday.
“I don’t know that I would go to that point yet,” Farrell said. “I think we need to get through this coming week first.”
If Sizemore does indeed start every day in center, he will likely be the leadoff hitter as well. Thursday night, he batted first, followed by Shane Victorino, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli. That is a scenario that could easily translate into the regular season.
“If we have Grady in the leadoff spot, it gives us another good player,” Farrell said. “The lineup we saw [Thursday] is one scenario, one version, right-handed, left-handed matchups that are there, rest requirements might be needed. I think you know who our guys are and roughly the spots they’re in the lineup. I think we showed early in the season and late in the season that we would make changes based on matchups or who’s swinging the bat a little bit better at a given time.”
More from John Farrell:Clay Buchholz will stay behind and throw a minor league game on Sunday, March 30, while the team is already in Baltimore. Buchholz, who’s already made four starts this spring, is in line to start April 5 against Milwaukee at Fenway. But as the No. 5 starter to begin the season, he will need to make two more starts in spring, with one coming Tuesday in Port Charlotte against the Rays and the second on March 30, likely in Fort Myers.
“I think it’s critically important that he doesn’t miss that last start,” Farrell said. “So that’s something we’ll sit down and we’ll talk about.”Craig Breslow continues to be in line for his first outing of spring Monday in Sarasota: “Twenty pitches of live BP today and came out of that fine. Good intensity and he’s on tap for Monday’s first game action.” In addition to making his fourth start of the spring Friday, Jon Lester got his first at-bat, thanks to the host Phillies and manager Ryne Sandberg not choosing to allow the DH rule in the spring game. Before his first at-bat, Lester asked catcher Wil Nieves something and proceeded to take three pitches for a strikeout: “These situations are exchanged early in camp, almost right at the beginning of the game schedule,” Farrell said before the game. “I think there was a willingness if Ortiz were on the trip but we weren’t going to make that concession. A manager will look at his own team and know what his needs are. We’re the visitors and we play by the rules.” The Braves will offer DH when the Red Sox visit Disney on Saturday. Farrell heard about the wicked line drive off the face of Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman on Wednesday night. That’s all, frankly, he wanted or needed to know.
“I haven’t seen the replay and actually, I haven’t really sought it out to see it,” Farrell said of the line drive off the bat of Kansas City’s Salvador Perez. “I read the report, saw what happened. Scary.”
Scary is one way to put it. Chapman was actually lucky, by most accounts, that the liner hit him above the left eye and bridge of the nose and not lower. He needed nearly three hours of surgery and a metal plate to stabilize the facial fractures. Early estimates have him missing 6-8 weeks while he recovers from the fracture and the concussion. He won’t be able to actively exercise for a month while the healing process takes hold.
MLB has discussed offering some sort of protective padded cap to protect pitchers but those discussions are very preliminary.
“Honestly, I haven’t seen a prototype,” Farrell said. “It was talked about. I haven’t even seen any official announcement where these are an option. In this instance, I don’t know that there’s anything that can be done,” Farrell said. “I don’t know that any protective hat would have deflected the blow. Just hopefully, he can make a full recovery.”On the 2013 Red Sox being the closest knit team he’s been around in 30 years of baseball: “It starts with the people themselves and the selection of people, the backgrounds that we became aware of. The reputations that they had as not only people but good teammates and the combination of all that were brought in, in addition to the holdover players. It was just a group of guys that meshed extremely well. Some of the challenges that we faced as a team probably helped galvanize that a little bit more. The tangible thing is the people that are in it.”
Did he think of growing a beard? “No, no.”On instant replay being helpful in spring training: “It’s hard to say that because we’re dealing with half of a system right now. We have no ability to have it reviewed internally so while this is almost a dress rehearsal. You’re walking out and just asking an umpire, ‘Hey, review it.” And we’re missing the meat of the system, and that is what our people will review inside and how we relay that information and whether we challenge or not. I know that’s all we have to work with right now but you can say any manager could walk out and say, ‘Hey, challenge this play.’ I don’t think that takes a lot of rehearsal.
“It’s just that fact that we know that we have an added tool. To me, it’s going to be drastically different when the regular season opens up. We don’t have the system. We walked through it logistically, yes. We’ve walked through it, critically thought how a play would unfold, the rough amount of time we would need to have the information relayed to say yay or nay to a challenge but that’s all we have to go by right now.
“We’ve already gotten through meetings on the actual functionality of the system. What we haven’t been able to rehearse is the review of the video, the pick-up of the phone, the answering it and walk through that part of it. That’s where you appreciate the ability to use replay here but it’s going to be different.
“For instance, a game like [Thursday], if this is in Yankee Stadium or Fenway, there’s probably going to be up to 16 to 20 angles because you have three stations carrying it unlike a game elsewhere where there might not be the same amount of coverage and you’re not going to same number of angles. The system is standardized and it’s installed by MLB. All that is standardized equipment [in clubhouses].”On one more clarification of the new “Buster Posey” sliding rule at home plate between runner and catcher: “Really, boil it all down, if the runner deviates his base path, that’s where the player can be ejected. But if the catcher is standing at home plate, that catcher can be run over. If he’s without the ball, then he’s automatically safe. But you can still run him over. So basically, it’s the runner, if he deviates off his established base line. Basically, there eliminating the runner going out of the line where Posey got hit.”
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