PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Red Sox manager John Farrell spoke at length before Tuesday’s exhibition game against the Tampa Bay Rays about the decision whether to start Grady Sizemore or Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field.
Farrell laid out the different scenarios under consideration and talked about how the verdict would affect other parts of the roster.
“There’s still a lot of internal discussion on who our starting center fielder is going to be,” he said.
Then, in the sixth inning, Sizemore hit a fastball to right field that cleared the fence, the bullpen, and the outfield boardwalk at Charlotte Sports Park before striking the walkway of a building about 430 feet away.
One long home run doesn’t necessarily put Sizemore on the roster for Opening Day. But it was another sign that he is a few days of good health away from claiming a job after missing two consecutives seasons with injuries to his knees, back and left elbow.
Sizemore is scheduled to play Wednesday and Thursday before sitting out Friday and playing on Saturday.
“We’re looking at these next three days as a physical test,” Farrell said before the Sox beat the Rays, 4-2. “Can’t say that we’re looking at quality at-bats or on-base [percentage] in those three games. The one thing that we can get some feedback on is, ‘Does he come out of three consecutive days in good shape physically?’ ”
If Sizemore doesn’t pass, the job would go to rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. There is no provision for having both players on the roster unless one of the other outfielders goes on the disabled list.
“That’s probably either/or at this point,” Farrell said. “We’re focusing one or the other.”
Sizemore is 10 of 33 over 10 games in spring training. The home run off lefthander Cesar Ramos was his first since July 15, 2011.
That it came in an exhibition game didn’t dim Sizemore’s smile.
“It felt good,” he said.
There are other issues to consider as the Red Sox assemble their roster. Putting Sizemore on the team would require the Sox have a serviceable backup for one or two games a week.
Shifting right fielder Shane Victorino to center field is one solution. Or the Sox could try Daniel Nava.
Neither option is especially palatable. The Sox would prefer to keep Victorino in right field, where he won a Gold Glove last season while Nava is a corner outfielder who has started one major league game in center.
Victorino has played in only eight games this spring because of injuries and sat out Tuesday with soreness on his left side.
“Part of what is factored is knowing what I have to manage in terms of games played and availability [and] what is the back-up plan for those other days? Is there variability with other guys in their day-to-day availability?” Farrell said. “I wish I could say there was just one thing that we’re pinning a decision on. But there are a number of factors in play.”
The decision will come by Friday. The Sox have an afternoon game on Saturday at JetBlue Park then leave for Baltimore.
Bradley has done little to make the decision more difficult. He was 0 for 4 on Tuesday and is 9 for 52 (.173) in 17 spring training games with 16 strikeouts. But Bradley is durable and healthy, something the Red Sox could use in what will be a busy April schedule.
See The Boston Globe or BostonGlobe.com on Wednesday for much more on this story.