When the Red Sox signed Grady Sizemore, like most people I thought it was a great idea. It was very low risk, very high reward. He hadn’t played in a couple years, so you didn’t expect much. But, if he produced anything he might make a great fifth outfielder. I actually wondered at the time if they brought him in just to help out with Jackie Bradley, Jr. during Spring Training. Let him be an extra coach before cutting him on the last day before heading north.
Things are a little different now.
He’s playing well.
I’ll be honest. I wasn’t sure what the actual specific concern with him was when the Sox signed him. He’d been out of the game for a while, so he was rusty. Were his injuries healed? Did they know? Was the only concern setbacks?
It’s those concerns that determine what to do next.
He doesn’t appear very rusty. So, if the only reason they didn’t hand him the starting job right away was to give him time to get up to game speed, that doesn’t seem to be an issue. Sure, he’s probably seeing different pitches than he would during the season, but he’s showing us everything he can right now. If that’s the only concern, just give him the starting job now.
He hasn’t played in every game yet, though. So, are the Sox worried about his conditioning? Are they worried that asking him to play three out of four games would be too taxing? They should be. But, what would be taxed? Would he be tired, or might he injure himself? If they’re afraid that he might get tired, it might be worth just giving it a shot. Nobody plays every game anymore. So, play him four out of five. If he gets tired, then sit him down. If he doesn’t, you’re good to go. But, if they’re afraid that overwork will lead directly to an injury, that’s more troublesome. Then you need to have a spare outfielder ready to go. You need to have two players on your roster play one position. I’m not sure the Sox have that kind of flexibility. I’m not sure they’d want to have that kind of flexibility. The alternative to that, of course, is sending Grady to the minors/extended spring training. Would Grady accept a minor league assignment to ease himself into action slowly? I bet he’d be pretty reluctant, especially if he feels he can play.
Are the Sox afraid that at any point his knee is just going to explode? Is every inning he plays getting him closer to a ticking time bomb? Should they just play him until he pops?
Making things more difficult is Jackie Bradley, Jr. He could certainly be a fine option in center. I had no problem handing him the starting job. I still wouldn’t. A line-up with him in it can win a lot of games.
But, Bradley’s young. He has time to be with the Sox. Sizemore, I assume, doesn’t.
So, what do you do?
I think you need to give Grady a chance. Unfortunately, that probably means starting Bradley in Pawtucket. But you need to get Grady into games while you still can. He has a shelf life that you need to take advantage of. If that means you occasionally need a Gomes-Nava-Victorino outfield, I’m OK with that. The alternative is something that you need to find out.
It’s actually the same thought process that had Bradley starting last season in Boston. He was playing very well. Who knew how long he could keep it up? You had to play him and find out. You owed it to the team. Unfortunately for him, he’s being hurt by the same process. You have to see what you have.
Because, it could be pretty good for a while.