FORT MYERS, Fla. — Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell announced Friday that Grady Sizemore will start in center fielder on opening day.
Sizemore, 31, has not played at any level in two years and has had seven surgeries since 2009. However, he passed every physical test this spring and is batting .333 with a home run in the Grapefruit League.
Rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. came into training camp as the favorite to take the starting job, but will begin the season at Triple-A Pawtucket. Bradley is batting .158 with a team-high 17 strikeouts this spring.
Farrell said Thursday night that Sizemore will bat fifth or sixth if he made the club.
“He looks very good physically,” Farrell said. “Left-handed and right-handed pitching, he had a good swing. He’s in a good place.”
Sizemore said he is OK with batting anywhere in the lineup.
“I’m happy to be in the lineup, no matter where I’m at,” he said. “I’m not going to change my approach, whether it’s leadoff or fifth or wherever.”
Lester gets opening start
Left-handed pitcher Jon Lester will start opening day against the Orioles. The 30-year-old veteran, who helped the Red Sox win the World Series last fall, will pitch Monday against the Orioles in Baltimore. “I know, earth-shattering news, and the world is round. So he starts Monday,” Farrell said Thursday.
Lester, 30, will pitch the season opener for the fourth time. He is coming off a World Series in which he went 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA as the Red Sox topped the St. Louis Cardinals. In five postseason starts, Lester went 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA. In the 2013 regular season, Lester finished 15-8 with a 3.75 ERA. A two-time All-Star, Lester has a 100-56 career record and a 3.76 ERA in eight seasons with Boston.
Lester isn’t about to judge anyone else’s decisions, but he admits he wouldn’t have turned down the $144 million the Tigers put in front of RHP Max Scherzer. “It would be tough, let’s put it that way,” Lester said. “It would be tough.”
Like Scherzer, Lester is eligible for free agency after the season. However, while Scherzer tabled conversations, Lester is still trying to work out a deal. Lester owns the better overall career, with two All-Star appearances and 100 victories before his 30th birthday. Scherzer has had the best single season, his 21-3 Cy Young Award-winning 2013 that ended with a loss to Lester’s Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.
Consistency paying off for Middlebrooks
Will Middlebrooks can’t recite his spring training batting average (.341 through Wednesday), but he knows he feels different at the plate.
“Approach-wise, this is the most consistent I’ve been,” Middlebrooks said. “Just swinging at what I want to swing at, not minding going down 0-2 if the pitcher throws me what I’m not looking for. I just feel comfortable throughout the count with all pitches — off-speed, fastball, in, out.”
A free swinger with power who is far more prone to striking out than drawing a walk, Middlebrooks never will be confused with his Red Sox teammates who grind out long at-bats and drive up pitch counts. However, he spent considerable time talking with outfielder Jonny Gomes and DH David Ortiz in an attempt to develop a more disciplined approach.
“My contact’s there, power’s there, and I think I just finally am seeing the ball how I should be,” he said. “I think a lot of that goes with being healthy and working on my approach, talking with the guys, watching a lot of video. A lot’s gone into it, so it’s nice for it to all start to come together a little bit.”
Doubront solid for Sox
In Friday’s spring training game, left-hander Felix Doubront bounced back from two sub-par outings to pitch five scoreless innings in Boston’s 4-0 win over the Twins at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.
Doubront gave up seven hits, walked two and struck out seven and was backed by Mike Napoli’s solo home run. In his previous two games, Doubront gave up 15 runs on 20 hits over eight innings.
The Red Sox put up two runs in the fourth when Mike Carp delivered a two-out double to score Napoli, who had walked. Xander Bogaerts followed with a single that plated Carp.
Napoli homered in the sixth. Singles by Carp, Ryan Dent and Derrik Gibson accounted for Boston’s final run.
The Red Sox will host the Twins at 1:05 p.m. Saturday in their final spring training game and right-hander Jake Peavy will get the start for the Red Sox.