Grady Sizemore made Red Sox’ choice easy
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Two weeks ago, the Red Sox were sure Jackie Bradley Jr. would be on their roster for Opening Day.
“I don’t why he wouldn’t be,” one official said.
Now he’s not, having been optioned to Triple A Pawtucket earlier Friday to make room on the roster for Grady Sizemore.
It’s pretty simple. Sizemore was one of the most productive players in spring training and Bradley one of the least. Spring statistics may not matter for David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, but they matter when two players are competing for a job.
Sizemore’s ability to make consistent contact at the plate was remarkable and he passed every physical test.
Sizemore performed so well that the Red Sox had no choice but to give him a shot. They believe their medical staff – particularly physical therapist Dan Dyrek — can keep Sizemore on the field.
It could last six days, six weeks or six months, nobody knows for sure. Outside of players leaving for World War II, there are almost no comparisons to be made for players of Sizemore’s caliber missing two full seasons. He last played a major league game on Sept. 22, 2011.
Carlos Baerga is one fairly recent example. The infielder was a major league regular from 1990-98 before he became a part-time player for two seasons, then sat out from 2000-01.
But even that is not a direct comparison because Baerga played independent ball and in Korea in 2001.
Baerga came back with the Red Sox in 2002 and hit .286 with a .695 OPS in 76 games as a pinch hitter and DH. Sizemore will be trying to play center field for the defending World Series champions.
The Sox cannot write Sizemore’s name into the lineup every day. Prudence will require a day off or two every week as his body adjusts to the rigors of playing every day, cold weather and travel.
The big issue the Red Sox have now is how John Farrell will manage those days off.
It could depend on the ballpark. The Sox want Shane Victorino in right field at Fenway Park, but so much so that they would risk Daniel Nava in center? Nava has made himself a better outfielder than he once was, but he is still below average based on advanced metrics. His skill set does not suggest center field.
Moving Victorino also would hurt two spots because Nava, Mike Carp and Jonny Gomes have all played far more left field than right in their careers.
The Red Sox had strong outfield defense last season with Victorino in right field and Jacoby Ellsbury in center. On those nights Sizemore is not playing, their defense will be cause for concern.
Bradley, who turns 24 next month, will get his chance in time. He has played only 80 games at Triple A after only 61 at Double A. It’s fair to say he has some development left, particularly in recognizing what pitches he can handle.
Good baseball debate to have with your friends: Will Sizemore or Bradley start more games in center field this season?
A few other end-of-camp thoughts:
■ If Sizemore works out, even if just for a while, it will add to the list of below-the-radar pickups Ben Cherington is adept at finding. The Red Sox have gotten a lot of mileage out of players whose original signings were greeted with little fanfare. Consider Koji Uehara, David Ross and Jonny Gomes.
■ The Opening Day roster decisions always generate more coverage than is merited. The Red Sox had seven players on their Opening Day roster last season who weren’t on the playoff roster. You’ll have a much better sense of the roster on June 1 than April 1.
■ The Globe’s season preview will be published on Sunday. During the course of gathering information for assorted stories, the manager, the general manager, two assistant general managers, two coaches and seven players mentioned how important third base coach Brian Butterfield was to the structure of the team.
Teams have limits on draft spending and international spending and face penalties if they exceed the payroll limits. But there are no limits on paying staffers.
Wouldn’t it be smart of a team to take, say, $5 million and invest it on hiring the 25 best coaches, instructors and scouts they could? That would create a competitive advantage better than signing a backup outfielder.
■ It’s probably not going to be a big deal 95 percent of the time. But Xander Bogaerts takes his time throwing the ball and sometimes throws low. Those are easily fixed issues, but something to keep an eye on.
■ Koji Uehara is one batter away from perfection in spring training. He has thrown six innings and retired 18 of the 19 batters he has faced. He gets one final tune-up on Saturday.
■ Alfredo Aceves did not make the Orioles and elected free agency. So lock your doors.
■ The top lefty out of the bullpen shifted from Andrew Miller to Craig Breslow last season. Now Breslow is on the DL and Miller is working his way back from an injury and has had an inconsistent spring. Chris Capuano could profile well as a reliever after starting much of his career and be more than a long reliever. The same is true of Drake Britton.
■ Finally, a programming note. All our written content will be exclusively in the Globe and on BostonGlobe.com from now on. That includes Nick Cafardo, Dan Shaughnessy, Chris Gasper, Julian Benbow and me. The Extra Bases blog on Boston.com will not have contributions from Globe baseball reporters.