Entering the 2011 season, Grady Sizemore was widely regarded as one of two things: either a total wash-up or perhaps trade bait come time for the All-Star break for the Cleveland Indians. At this time, the Indians were considered the worst team in baseball, probably more than willing to unload his hefty salary (he is due to make $7.5 million this season).
A wash-up? Maybe not. But it seemed like the man had simply been burned out. From 2005-2008, the 28-year-old Sizemore only missed nine ball games. Over that same span, he was named an all-star three times, won two Gold Gloves, and also garnered one Silver Slugger Award. From 2004 to 2008, he was the only American League player to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases every season.
Everything changed for Sizemore in 2009. After struggling at the plate for a little over half the year, Sizemore elected to have season-ending surgery on his elbow. In 2010, he played in only 33 games before having microfracture knee surgery, which ended his season.
Just how much did Sizemore mean to the Indians? Between 2009 and 2010, the Indians went 63-76 when he was in the lineup (.456). Yeah, I know, still 13 games below .500. Until the you consider the fact that over the same period the team went 71-114 (.384) when Sizemore wasn't in the lineup does the picture get clearer.
After Sizemore eased his way through spring training and didn't see action until about two weeks after the season began, I, probably like many Tribe fans, approached his comeback with cautious optimism. He took his time coming back from injury this time, but would he return to his old self again? Would we be holding our collective breath when he went for one of his patented diving catches? Would he come up lame while sliding into second stretching a single into a double?
Sizemore entered the starting lineup for the first time on April 17 against the Baltimore Orioles. In retrospect, he may have more or less answered all the questions surrounding him.
In just his second at-bat, he sent a Brad Bergeson fastball towering towards the right field stands for his first round-tripper since 2009. His next at-bat? He laced a double; icing on the proverbial cake.
In his first 11 games back, he reached base safely in 10 of them, including five multi-hit games. Despite the fact he missed the first 15 games of the season, he is currently leading the Indians with 13 extra-base hits. His return has undoubtedly helped propel the Indians to their best start in years.
Sizemore is currently off to one of his best starts to a season. He is currently hitting .305, and he boasts a .359 OBP. His OPS of 1.020 is good for sixth in the American League. He already has more total bases this season in 14 games (39) than he did in 33 games last season (37).
I think by now it can be assumed that Grady Sizemore is indeed pushing forward with his already decorated career. Is he an all-star? As of now, I do believe so. Does he look like a leading candidate for the AL Comeback Player of the Year award? As of now, I do believe so. Regardless, in any facet of the game, a healthy Grady Sizemore is certainly one I want on my team.