It had been a long time coming for Grady Sizemore. His 12th-inning single off the wall in left-center scored David Ortiz, delivering the Red Sox’ 4-3 win over the Reds at Fenway Park Tuesday night.
Sizemore, usually subdued, was, of course, at the center of the Red Sox postgame celebration.
“I was pretty excited. It was a good feeling,” he said. “I try not to get too emotional out there, try to keep it on the same level. But right there I let it out a little bit.”
And why not? It was his fourth career walk-off hit and just his first since Aug. 11, 2006, against the Royals while he was with the Indians.
“Oh, gosh,” said Sizemore, who went 3-for-6 with two RBI in the game. “That’s a long time ago.”
After being out of baseball for more than two years because of injuries, Sizemore, once one of the game’s most dynamic players, is enjoying the game again.
“Considering everything else I’ve gone through, this is easy. This is fun,” he said. “You just have to go out there and play and continue to work.”
After lighting up spring training and earning the center field job for Opening Day, Sizemore’s playing time became sporadic as his average continued to dip. But in his last eight games, he has gone 9-for-30 with six RBI, three doubles, and a triple. In that span, he has raised his average from .212 to .242.
“I think we’ve seen with Grady as he’s gotten some consistent at-bats, he went through a little bit of a stretch where he didn’t have much to show for it, but a number of good swings over the last few games he’s been in the outfield,” said manager John Farrell said. “And none bigger than to walk things off here tonight.”
But the Sox are still learning what they can expect from Sizemore.
“There’s no template that we’re following with Grady,” Farrell said. “You look at the bat speed, you look at the contact when he doesn’t have much to show for it. You look at him just like another guy, but knowing there’s a two-year void there. The one thing we continue to center around is just the physical recovery, and that has been very good.
“I think every first that he goes through this year – first being since he was an everyday player – I got to believe that he feels like the game is coming back to him and he’s doing some things that he hasn’t done for quite a while. But to walk things off, I got to believe tonight gives him even further feeling that he’s contributing here rather than [just] being someone coming back from an injury.”
Sizemore is batting .394, going 13-for-33 in the fifth spot in the lineup this season, as he did Tuesday night.
In his career against the Reds, Sizemore is batting .319, going 46-for-144. It is the third-highest average among all active players with at least 150 plate appearances against the Reds. With right-hander Mike Leake scheduled to start for the Reds in the homestand final Wednesday night, Sizemore will likely be in the lineup again.
“The one thing that he’s been accustomed to when he’s healthy is [being] an everyday player,” Farrell said. “So the role that he finds himself in here is a little bit different than he’s been accustomed to. But he’s an outstanding team player. He understands Jonny Gomes is going to be in left field against left-handers. He stays prepared. His mindset as he comes to the ballpark is knowing or thinking he’s going to play every day.
“But I think nights like tonight go a long way to continue to rebuild Grady.”