BOSTON – It was the feel-good story of spring training. Grady Sizemore, attempting to make his way back after being out of baseball for more than two years because of injuries, performed as very few expected. In 13 spring games he hit .310/.356/.429, making several highlight reel catches in the outfield, earning a spot in the Opening Day lineup as the starting center fielder.
But Sizemore, who was once of the game’s most dynamic players, saw his production fall off, and with it his playing time recently.
On Tuesday the Red Sox designated Sizemore for assignment, essentially cutting ties with the outfielder.
In 52 games this season, he was hitting just .216/.288/.324, playing 31 games in the field – 24 in left, 18 in center, and 14 in right. He had four game-winning RBI for the Sox this season, third-most on the team, including a walk-off single in the a 12-inning win against the Reds on May 6.
But, he appeared in just nine games this month batting .133/.212/.167.
“We made a move with Grady today and as we explained to him a really tough decision because of the person that he is and how much we think of him,” said general manager Ben Cherington. “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 [manager] John [Farrell] and his staff.”
Asked how the evaluation process went, Cherington replied:
"I think difficult and imperfect. 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.”
The Sox had been considering the move for several days. It is one of several roster moves they will be making this week as Shane Victorino is making his way back from the disabled list, and Brandon Workman awaits word from the league office on the appeal of his suspension.
“We’ve got a lot of moving parts that are going to take place this week,” Farrell said. “And out of respect to Grady, we wanted to make the decision sooner rather than later, if there’s other opportunities for him. So this has kind of evolved over the last couple of days.”
Asked how Sizemore took the news, Farrell replied:
“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.”
Sizemore was the Sox’ starting center fielder on Opening Day. It’s unusual when such a move is made with a player who was in the Opening Day lineup. But, it also demonstrates the struggles the Sox have been through this season.
"It's a product of the fact that things haven't happened on the offensive side the way we had planned or hoped,” Cherington said. “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.”
If Sizemore clears waivers there is a possibility he stays with the Sox on a minor league assignment. But, the Sox had no information on that yet.
"Today wasn't the time to talk about that,” Cherington said. “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. We'd certainly keep the door open and a relationship still exists. I don't know if that's an interest of his or not.
“We'd be open to it yeah, I didn't want to go there today with him. In theory, yes, but he needs time to sort things out.”
There is also the possibility the Sox could trade him before the waiver time expires.
“We designated him so we'll see if we get any calls,” Cherington said. “In fairness to Grady we wouldn't draw that (trade) out very long. Next day or so we'll see. If not, we'll take the next step.”
Garin Cecchini was called up to take Sizemore’s place on the roster.