Jacoby Ellsbury’s legacy as the center-fielder for the Boston Red Sox was always slightly marred by a widespread belief that he was never thrilled with being a member of the Sox, and also due to a couple of instances of him taking longer than expected to return from injuries. His legacy went up in flames after signing with the hated New York Yankees this offseason, leaving the door wide open for a player to step into his old digs and be his own guy without having to live up to the lofty expectations naturally left behind when a player of Ellsbury’s caliber signs elsewhere. Enter three-time former All-Star Grady Sizemore.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has already in his brief career made a nice living out of bargain bin signings such as Koji Uehara, Jonny Gomes and Stephen Drew. Grady Sizemore is his next project after Ellsbury took $150+ million from the Yankees. The Red Sox new center-fielder made it through spring training better than anyone could have expected. Sizemore passed every test with flying colors, never once reporting the slightest bit of pain or soreness even after making diving catches and crashing into walls like he used to. He showed no signs at the plate of a guy who hasn’t seen the field in three years either.
It is probably expecting too much to peg Sizemore for 150+ games with the level of production he was accustomed to five years ago, but the early indications are making it hard to quell expectations. Sizemore opened the season in game one by providing the Red Sox with the lone bright spot of the day — a solo home run in the fourth inning of the team’s 2-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, his second hit of the day. Everything Sizemore has said throughout spring training and into the season has been cautiously optimistic. He knows that he has been through seven surgeries since last appearing in a game, and he knows not to get overly elated with the small victories, but that will not keep him from being a crucial member of the team.
Farrell will be monitoring Sizemore all season, making sure not to throw too much at him too quickly. Sizemore will see a lot of days off against lefties as well as some regular days off for scheduled maintenance. Sizemore is also not being asked to bat lead-off to avoid stacking his plate too much. That being said, easing Sizemore into things could very well pay enormous dividends for a team in need of a dynamic replacement for Ellsbury. A healthy Sizemore can be every bit the well-rounded catalyst that Ellsbury was to this team for a number of years.
Grady Sizemore was originally signed as a low-risk, high reward insurance policy incase prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. was unable to seize his role as the expected starter in center. It is very early on in his Sox career, but things could absolutely not be going any better for Grady Sizemore so far. He has looked like his old self since day one of spring training and has now started to show his trademark power. Sizemore has already made it impossible not to root for his comeback story, and fans all across baseball will be pulling for him in his new role as the starting center-fielder for the Red Sox.
Commentary by Justin Hussong, Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer for the Los Angeles Dodgers