ATLANTA — Doubled to right. Stole third. Scored on a single by David Ross.
That was the old Grady Sizemore.
That’s what he did in the fourth inning Tuesday night to tie the score at 2 in a 6-3 Red Sox win over the Braves.
It’s those snapshots of his past that make you want to wait a little longer. This once five-tool player flashes that ability every now and then to remind us all of why his comeback should continue. The Red Sox’ hope is for Sizemore to gradually smooth out his game and be an asset rather than mediocre or a liability.
Sizemore went 2 for 5 Tuesday night with an RBI and a stolen base. He knocked in an insurance run with a ground-ball out in Boston’s four-run seventh inning.
The Red Sox won their second straight game against the Braves, and hope this is the start of a turnaround in a season in turmoil.
They’re hoping this is also a turnaround for Sizemore.
Fairly or unfairly, his poor start has caused speculation in publications that Sizemore was playing himself into a release. But those reports seem premature. He’s doing enough to make one want to wait to see what could develop, as his comfort level increases and his body passes hurdles with increased playing time after missing two seasons because of injury.
Everyone got excited when Sizemore had a strong spring training and checked off all the hurdles he needed to overcome: 1) make the team and 2) become the starting center fielder.
Red Sox coaches and manager John Farrell determined that Sizemore was no longer the everyday answer in center. He didn’t look anything like the Gold Glove defender he had been in Cleveland. The decision was that he was a platoon corner outfielder who could be a fill-in center fielder but no more.
With Shane Victorino again injured and on the disabled list, Sizemore has survived. Lately, he’s been hitting.
It’s been a struggle for the Red Sox’ outfield. Jackie Bradley Jr. also showed some life Tuesday night with two hits, a pair of RBIs, and a stolen base. He had been dreadful at the plate.
Sizemore and Bradley, the two players who were to replace a high percentage of the departed Jacoby Ellsbury, have barely been above .200 for the season. Bradley entered Tuesday night’s game hitting .193, Sizemore .221.
The Red Sox were stuck with both because Victorino was on the DL and they had no center field help in Pawtucket.
Daniel Nava came back up when Victorino went on the DL, but he’s not a center fielder, further solidifying Sizemore’s and Bradley’s places on the team.
Sizemore wants to be more than that.
He may never again win Gold Gloves or Silver Sluggers or be one of the biggest threats in the game. But he can be useful. He can, to some degree, do some of the things Ellsbury used to do.
Sizemore did that Tuesday night.
While the stolen base was reviewed, the replay was inconclusive, so Sizemore was ruled safe. He had gotten a good jump on Braves starter Aaron Harang and went for it.
Ross was up and he entered the game hitting .167 and had grounded out in his first at-bat. The bottom of the order, in particular, had looked awful in the second inning, with Bradley and Jon Lester following Ross and both striking out.
Sizemore said he didn’t feel pressure to make something happen in the fourth.
“Not really,” he said. “I guess I’m always looking to make something happen. It was a good opportunity. I felt I got a good jump on [Harang] the last time I was on base. Just trying to aggressive.”
His heart was pounding as the play was reviewed.
“Honestly, I thought I was out,” Sizemore said. “The ball beat me. I thought he put the tag on me pretty quick. I figured I was out. When I watched the replay it was a lot closer than I thought. So I was hoping it was too hard to tell. They had a lot of slow-mo angles.”
In Sizemore’s head he believes he can do everything he used to do in a baseball uniform, but the physical part isn’t there yet.
“I’ve felt like that for a while,” he said. “The thing is trying to get my legs back underneath me. It’s not about doing everything again, it’s how well can you do it. I think for me it’s just a matter of time getting the strength back.
“Right now [my legs are] still a little heavy,” Sizemore said. “I’m trying to break through the last part of the rehab. I’ve been gone so long it’s a matter of getting conditioned again. I don’t have the conditioning that I would have if I had kept playing the last two years.
“I feel I’m getting there. I can do everything, but I can be better. When I feel better I’ll run a little bit smoother and feel more normal. And it’s the same way at the plate. Getting your legs underneath when you hit, just like when you run. I’m still getting a feel for the game and getting conditioned at the same time. I feel good out there, but there’s more in the tank.”
Red Sox fans have been restless, wanting to see Sizemore be a big contributor. He wants that too. But he says he can’t get caught up in public opinion.
“I’m not worried about what people think,” he said. “I have enough going on as it is. I just want to go out there and get better. I know that my body is adapting to things better. I can see the day when I’m over the hump. I feel it’s coming and I want it to come as much as anyone. It’s been a long haul getting here and I know I’m not going to give up on anything until I get to where I want to be.”
In his first 56 at-bats he had three extra-base hits. In his last 12 he has four.
Farrell, who was responsible for getting Sizemore here, has understood the process. He has never thrown in the towel and he has no plans to abandon him before the process is complete.
“He’s better with each passing week,” Farrell said. “The life in the body continues to be more explosive. He adds length to the lineup.”
Sizemore is showing us those snapshots more often. None of us will ever know what it’s like to recover from so many surgeries and make a comeback after a two-year layoff.
But the Sizemore of old is worth waiting for. And for now, a fourth inning like Tuesday night’s, makes us want to see more.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.