After only missing nine games from 2005 to 2008, Sizemore hit an unexpected injury bug in 2009, where he injured both his elbow and abdomen, and in 2010, where a microfracture surgery on his knee ended his season after only 33 games.
The 2010 offseason was devoted to a grueling rehab process for Sizemore, which left him (and Indians fans) longing for his return to the diamond for the 2011 season.
That anticipation came to fruition on March 23rd, when Sizemore first took the field for first time for the Cleveland Indians. He had previously seen action as the designated hitter on March 21st.
While he did not perform spectacularly on the field, making a couple routine plays in center and going 0-for-4 at the plate, his return symbolized perhaps a new era in Cleveland Indians baseball.
Over Sizemore's past two injury-riddled seasons, the Tribe have gone a dismal 134-190. His return would certainly bolster an already formidable outfield with Shin-Soo Choo and up-and-comer Michael Brantley.
"I wasn't expecting to get a whole lot of work in three innings," Sizemore said in a recent interview, "it's good just to be out there moving around, tracking pitches."
Sizemore, as well as manager Manny Acta, have stated that Sizemore's return to the field will be closely monitored and that he will not be rushed back into the fray. It has been reported that Sizemore will alternate between playing center field and being the designated hitter for the remaining Indians spring training games.
"The last hurdle will be that, diving for a ball, which will mean he's not thinking about his knee or anything like that," Acta told MLB.com's Jordan Bastian, "I don't think he's going to have any issues."
Undoubtedly, Indians fans want the Sizemore of old to return to the lineup. From 2005 through 2008, Sizemore slugged 107 home runs, knocked in 325 runs, swiped 115 bases and chipped in 16 outfield assists.
The Indians have made the announcement that Michael Brantley will start Opening Day at center field and in the leadoff spot in the batting order, but that means the Indians are righting a previous wrong; Sizemore may have been rushed back into action too early during the 2010 season, which may have exacerbated his previous injuries and forced new ones upon him.
Even with Sizemore out of the lineup temporarily, the Indians signed Austin Kearns as a safety valve. Kearns performed well for the Tribe last season before being dealt to the Yankees around the All-Star break. The emergence of Travis Buck also can put the Indians faithful at rest for the time being.
With a healthy and productive Sizemore back into the lineup, the Indians are that much closer to embracing relevancy and fighting for contention in the American League once again.
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