Early Returns on Grady Sizemore as Red Sox's Starting Center Fielder

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Early Returns on Grady Sizemore as Red Sox's Starting Center Fielder
Steven Senne
Grady Sizemore's Opening Day performance is a good sign of things to come.

Four at-bats from Red Sox outfielder Grady Sizemore is far too small a sample size to judge what type of impact the nine-year veteran will have in the 2014 season.

Yet these four at-bats—the first he has taken in a regular-season game since 2011—are far more significant than what any box score might indicate.

Sizemore's story in 2014 has become one of the preeminent tales for the defending world champions this season, and Red Sox fans know it well.

Once upon a time, Sizemore was a perennial All-Star—a five-tool player who combined power, defense and speed.

Then in 2009, Sizemore's body turned against him.  Injuries plagued the venerable outfielder in that season and the two years afterward.

He missed all of 2012 and 2013 due to injuries as well.

After being signed by the Red Sox during the offseason, Sizemore had a chance to resurrect what once was a promising career.  He was brought in to compete with Jackie Bradley Jr.—one of Boston's top prospects—who had struggled in a brief major league stint with the team in 2013.

The competition, which is further described by Ricky Doyle of NESN.com, eventually went Sizemore's way.  Sizemore amassed a .310 batting average during spring training compared to Bradley's .158 average.

As a result, Sizemore won the starting center-field job over Bradley, per Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald.

Sizemore elaborated on his 2014 resurgence and getting the starting job, via Lauber:

I'd definitely this is a lot more satisfying.  Just going through what I've gone through, all the negative things that have happened, it's been a long time since I've had positive news.  It's been a long time since I've been able to play and just feel this good and be in this kind of setting and just kind of look forward to coming to the ballpark, not wondering what's going to happen next or what's going to hurt today.  Everything's been great, and this is just topping it all off.

Fortunately for Bradley, who was initially slated to start the 2014 season in Triple-A Pawtucket, an injury and 15-day disabled list stint to fellow outfielder Shane Victorino gave Bradley an Opening Day nod.

Still, the focus is almost entirely on Sizemore, and in the Red Sox's first game on the road against the Baltimore Orioles, he came through with an impressive performance.

In four at-bats on Opening Day, Sizemore went 2-for-4 and accounted for Boston's lone run in its 2-1 loss—a solo home run over the right-field wall.

Sizemore went 2-for-4 with a solo home run in his first major league game since 2011.

The blast was Sizemore's third Opening Day home run and his first since 2011.  Even more impressive was the fact that Sizemore broke his bat when he connected—something you do not often see on a home run blast, per Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe.

Yes, this is only Game 1 of a 162-game season.  Yes, Sizemore still has a long way to go before justifying the Red Sox's decision to give him the starting center-field job.

And yes, the seemingly endless concerns over Sizemore's health and stability will continue to follow him over the course of the year.

But Sizemore's hot start to the 2014 season is as good an indication the Red Sox could have hoped for.  His teammates are unquestionably behind him.

“He looks great out there,” Dustin Pedroia said, via Benbow.  “We’re pretty proud of him, what he’s been through to get back to this point and he’s going to be a huge force for us.”

Hopefully for the Red Sox, Sizemore can continue to be a huge force over the remaining 161 games of the regular season.

 

All statistics, records and accolades courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise stated.  Box score information courtesy of CBS Sports.

 

Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the Boston Red Sox.  Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.

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