Grady Sizemore was a great comeback story.
He survived spring training. He beat out Jackie Bradley Jr. for the starting center field job and played Opening Day. What came later was a struggle, and finally on Tuesday, the Red Sox just couldn’t wait for what Sizemore termed the final phase of his comeback.
Sizemore had told this reporter that his legs still felt heavy at times and that he needed to get over that to generate the power he once had.
Manager John Farrell, asked how Sizemore took the news of being designated for assignment, said, “Hard, as you would expect. But he’s respectful. Grady Sizemore is about all the good things in this game, from his performance to the person he is, to his work ethic, the way he plays the game.
“He’s an exceptional person. And this is a tough decision to part ways with a guy of his character. And though he’s trying to do something that I don’t know if it’s been done in the game before, we commend him on his work ethic and trying to get back to the level previous.”
General manager Ben Cherington said, “We’re certainly hoping this would have turned out differently and we certainly did until recently. We reached the point where we couldn’t give it more time while trying to find ways to create better roster alignment for John and his staff.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s in the big leagues somewhere else this year. It wouldn’t surprise me if he looks like a better player this year. He had 200 at-bats and that’s a good sample for someone who has missed that much time and maybe he just needs more. We just weren’t in the position to give him more at this time.”
As for the heavy legs theory, Cherington said, “He was, from a medical treatment standpoint, doing well. He wasn’t really requiring any special attention or treatment. The grind of a major league season . . . it’s hard to predict what was going to happen. Since he hadn’t been through it, maybe he needs to go through it a little bit more. I hope he gets that chance somewhere else.”
Since Sizemore, 31, was designated for assignment, the team can elect to trade him, release him, or outright him to the minors.
“In fairness to Grady, we wouldn’t draw that [trade option] out very long,” said Cherington. “Next day or so we’ll see. If not, we’ll take the next step.”
As for a minor league stint, Cherington said, “Today wasn’t the time to talk about that. That would be up to him if he wanted to consider that. Hopefully he’ll have opportunities and hopefully he gets a major league opportunity.
“We’ll be rooting hard for him. We’d love to see him in the big leagues and playing well.”
The mere fact the team has to release a player from the Opening Day lineup seems to be a microcosm of how the season has gone.
“It’s a product of the fact that things haven’t happened on the offensive side the way we had planned or hoped,” said Cherington. “We still hope to find solutions. As I said to you guys in Baltimore, it’s up to me, it’s up to John, it’s up to all of us to find solutions. I still think we can and we will. It’s on an ongoing thing.”
Sizemore was hitting .216 with two homers in 52 games (205 plate appearances).
Sizemore hit .216 with two homers and 15 RBIs. He signed a one-year, $750,000 contract with incentives that could have made it worth $6 million.
He earned $250,000 for making the Opening Day roster and $250,000 for staying on the Opening Day roster for 60 days. He fell 20 plate appearances short of another $250,000.
Outfielder Jonny Gomes thought Sizemore’s problem was more the fact that he had never been a platoon player.
“I think that was the hardest part for him,” Gomes said. “I think he was fine physically, but I doubt he had ever been pinch hit for. I doubt he ever sat against lefties. He was certainly not a guy who was moved out of center field. I just think all of that new stuff he was going through was hard for him.
“I will say that I think he can go somewhere else and be successful and make it work. Everyone admires what he did in this clubhouse.”
Cherington said “it’s a good problem to have” when pitchers Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront come back, especially as it concerns Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa, two youngsters who have pitched well in the rotation.
“We’re waiting on a lot things,’’ Cherington said. “Waiting word on Workman’s suspension to see how that plays into it. Waiting to see how Buck does in his next outing. We have to wait on things before we make any decisions, but if we have to have tough conversations, I’ll take those tough conversations as opposed to the alternative of not having them. It’s a good problem.”
Cherington said he wouldn’t rule out pitchers going to the bullpen, with the exception of Buchholz, because, “In Clay’s case, he’s an established major league starter, so he would be given the opportunity to stay in that role.’’
Bearing upCherington said new acquisition Andres Torres, a center fielder, is still finding his baseball bearings. “He’s been working in Lowell, working on getting in baseball shape,” said Cherington. “He’s still in that phase and getting him ready for games. It’s weeks, not months, but can’t put an exact time.” . . . As for searching for an outfield bat, the GM said, “It’s always hard to find good bats. We have some here and hopefully it continues to get better than what they have been. Funny thing is, we want as many good players as we can get. The more good hitters, the more runs you score. It’s up to us to always look for that. It’s an ongoing thing.’’
Brock Holt, who made his major league debut in center field Tuesday night going 2 for 4 with a pair of runs, has surprised the Red Sox brass with his versatility. He’s now played third, first, and all three outfield positions. He also played second base last season. “Every time he’s at a new position for the first time, we kind of hold our breath a little bit,” Cherington said. “He’s a baseball player and one of those guys who probably grew up more as a baseball player than at a particular position. So I think he kind of enjoys it. He enjoys the challenge of moving around and proving that he can do it. He’s athletic, he’s got instincts. He can run. He can throw. He feels comfortable in both corner spots so we decided to give Jackie a blow and see what happens.” Holt took over Sizemore’s locker . . . No. 1 draft pick Michael Chavis was in town for a physical and to sign his contract, but he was not made available to the media . . . Sox catcher David Ross was hit in the neck with a foul ball and has a bruise in the area. He had trouble catching his breath, but said that subsided . . . Third baseman Will Middlebrooks and outfielder Shane Victorino continued their rehab assignments with Pawtucket. Both went 0 for 2 before the game was suspended by rain in Rochester, N.Y., and rescheduled for Wednesday . . . Infielder Garin Cecchini was called up from Pawtucket.
Because of a reporter’s error, the amount of the incentives in Grady Sizemore’s contract was incorrect in an earlier version of this story. He earned $250,000 for making the Opening Day roster and $250,000 for staying on the roster for 60 days. He fell 20 plate appearances short of another $250,000 incentive.