FORT MYERS, Fla. — Veteran Grady Sizemore continues to make a compelling case for being named the Boston Red Sox’s opening day center fielder, although a decision likely won’t be rendered until the final days of spring training.
The biggest issue: Can the Sox rely on him to play every day after he missed the past two seasons with various injuries, including microfracture surgery on both knees. Even Sizemore can’t make any guarantees.
“I don’t know. I don’t have that answer,” Sizemore said. “I think it’s definitely a possibility. I don’t know if they’re going to roll me out there 25 out of 25. But let’s just get through tomorrow before we start talking about the season.”
Sizemore was holding up well this spring, exhibiting no signs of being limited and even flashing the skills that once made him the league’s most dynamic center fielder. On Monday, for instance, he notched a double and two singles and made two spectacular catches. Sizemore is competing with rookie center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., and with the Sox already slated to have a platoon in left field with Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava, there isn’t a place on the roster for both Sizemore and Bradley unless a trade is made.
“Our whole goal in this is to continue to build him and keep him on an incline, rather than overloading it so early that there’s any kind of setback,” manager John Farrell said. “The best thing I can say is that he’s responding favorably to everything we’ve put him through.”
Sox prospect heading to court
Catcher Jon Denney, a former third-round pick and promising prospect in the Red Sox’s lower minors, was arrested March 14 by Lee County (Fla.) police and charged with driving with a suspended license.
Denney, 19, was pulled over near Fort Myers Beach when his black Ford F-150 Raptor was observed accelerating quickly through a stop sign. According to a police report, after producing a passport and an Arkansas license that was suspended because of a previous DUI arrest, Denney cussed at two officers and said he was a Red Sox player and made more money than either of the officers, likely referring to his $875,000 signing bonus. Denney was released after posting a $500 bond, and he has a March 31 court date.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, planned to get help for Denney.
“At this point, we’re in the middle of putting together a program for Jon to address things that we feel he needs to address,” GM Ben Cherington said. “That will likely mean he’s not on the field for a while, and beyond that, I can’t say anything else more than that at this time. We certainly take the incident seriously as we would with any other player. We’re trying to address his needs and help him in any way we can. But certainly he has some work to do.”
New pitch for Peavy
Right-handed pitcher Jake Peavy missed a few days earlier in spring training after accidently splitting his left index finger with a fishing knife. Lately, though, he was focused on a different kind of split-finger.
Peavy unveiled a new split-fingered fastball this spring, a pitch that he says was inspired by RHP Koji Uehara, who helped him develop the grip. Uehara’s split was effective enough last season that he was as dominant as any closer in history.
“It’s not going to be Koji Uehara’s split-finger, don’t get me wrong, by any means,” Peavy said. “Why would you not try to see if you can expand your game? It’s something I felt like we’re going to use a good bit and have as a weapon.”
Peavy is slated to start the Red Sox’s fourth game of the season, the home opener April 4 against the Milwaukee Brewers.
More playing time for Ross
David Ross will play more often than the usual backup catcher, according to Red Sox manager John Farrell, who values the veteran’s ability to frame pitches, call a game and communicate well with pitchers.
Over the past five seasons, Ross leads the majors with a 3.29 catcher’s ERA, and last October, he took over as the starter, supplanting Jarrod Saltalamacchia midway through the World Series. Still, barring injury, it is unlikely Ross will find his name in the lineup more than a few times a week, especially with primary C A.J. Pierzynski having played more games behind the plate than any active major league catcher (1,678).
Ross understands his role, having spent most of his career playing second fiddle.
“I’ve been a backup before,” Ross said. “I know how to give way to the starter. That’s what I signed up for. The question of how much (playing time) is enough is a tough question for the backup. The more you play, the more comfortable you get, but if you’re not going well, getting a break can be helpful. It can play both ways.”
Left-handed pitcher Felix Doubront was cruising through spring training, at least until a Tuesday beating by the Yankees. Doubront allowed seven earned runs on 10 hits and three walks in 3 2/3 innings, struggling with his release point and command.
“He probably didn’t have as much finish to his pitches as we’ve seen in his first couple of outings,” Farrell said. “Quite possibly, we’re into that part of camp where he’s battling through a little bit of a dead arm which is completely normal and expected. But we got him up to 80 pitches, which is in line for the progression we’re trying to get him to.” Doubront is slated to start the third game of the season, April 3 in Baltimore.