BOSTON (CBS) – Grady Sizemore has missed all of the last two seasons and parts of the last four with a slew of knee and back injuries, leading many to wonder if the 31-year-old could return to his former All-Star form.
Since the last procedure on his right knee in September 2012, Sizemore has been working hard to return to the diamond. He wasn’t ready to play in 2013, so he didn’t sign with any team and sat out the season (despite a few contract offers in the closing months). Though it was the right move for Sizemore, it meant another year of rehab and away from the game.
But after signing a one-year contract with the Red Sox just a few weeks ago, he’s finally back on the practice field with a team, and away from those rehab regimens that have filled his days since 2010.
“It’s all I’ve known,” Sizemore said of rehabbing his numerous ailments. “It’s definitely frustrating and I’m sick of it. This is fun to be back down here in this environment; to get away from the rehab aspect and turn it more into baseball spring training.”
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The two-time Gold Glove winner said he’s a pretty calm customer, so he wasn’t “bouncing off the walls” from all the repetitive rehab programs he had to go through. But now he’s anxious to show what he can do on the field, and is excited to do so for the Boston Red Sox.
“I’m healthy. I’m good to go,” Sizemore said from the Red Sox’ Spring Training facilities in Fort Myers, Florida. “There will still be some things that I’m working on this spring, just trying to get back to 100 percent. I’m not necessarily in baseball shape but I’m in good physical shape, moving around good. I’m just looking forward to playing baseball.”
No one, including Sizemore, expects to see the five-tool player that led the American League in runs in 2006, clubbed 33 home runs in 2008, or helped lead the Cleveland Indians to the ALCS in 2007. But he’s worked so hard to get back to this point, and is ready for any rust that shows over the next few months.
“It’s all going to be bad early. Not bad, but rusty,” he admitted. “Any off-season you feel rusty, but when you haven’t played in two years, and the better part of four years you’ve been injured, it’s going to be tough. Timing is going to be off. (Facing) pitching is going to be tough.”
“I need to get out on an actual field. It’s one thing to be in a controlled setting on turf, but when you’re moving around on the field every day you’re pounding and hitting the bases, I need to see how that feels,” he said. “The timing and everything needs to get sharpened up. It’s been a couple of years so I’m going to be rusty.”
“I still feel like I have the speed,” said Sizemore, who stole 38 bases and was only caught five times in 2008. “It’s one of those things where it’s more durability; can you put it together every day? Maybe out of the chute I’m not going to say my speed is exactly what I was when I was healthy, but it’s going to get better. It’s just a matter of staying healthy and putting a good program together.”
The Sizemore signing poses little risk for the Red Sox. Though he joins a team that is set in the outfield, there are plenty of question marks that Sizemore could help answer should they arise. Rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. will man center field for the departed Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino will be back in right, and Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava and Mike Carp will all platoon in left field, but if ready, Sizemore could quickly find himself filling in for any of those players. If Bradley undergoes any rookie struggles or Victorino’s ribs/thumb/back or any other injury he played through last season flares up, Sizemore may find himself back in the thick of things for a playoff contender.
It’s unclear if he can still handle the demands of center field, but Sizemore is willing to roam any area of the outfield for his new ballclub.
“I’m willing to play anywhere,” he said. “Coming back, whatever team I signed with I was going to do whatever was best for the team in whatever role they wanted me in. I have to evaluate myself when I get out here this spring to see how it looks and see how it feels. I’ll get work in at all positions and do what I can.”
Sizemore isn’t sure if he will be ready when Boston’s spring schedule begins at the end of the month, and he doesn’t know what he’ll be able to bring throughout the season. But after working so hard to get back the last four years, he’s focused on the big picture and is hoping he can get his stellar career back on track.
“I’ve been more of a student of the game more than a player that last few years. Hopefully I can take little things that I’ve picked up,” he said. “Every day I go out there I’m looking to improve. I’m hoping that when I get back and am healthy I am better. There are certain aspects that will take a hit early on, but I think over time I can come back and be as good, if not better.”
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