CLEARWATER, Fla. -- In 2005, John Farrell was the Cleveland Indians' director of player development when veteran outfielder Juan Gonzalez suffered an injury in the middle of spring training. Indians prospect Grady Sizemore had been having a terrific camp and a decision was made to put him on the Opening Day roster instead of sending him to Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate.
Sizemore went on to hit .289 with 22 home runs, 81 RBIs and 22 stolen bases as the Indians' starting center fielder. Although Sizemore has been slowed by injuries to both knees over the past few years, he had four straight seasons of 22 or more home runs beginning in 2005 while making the All-Star Game every year from 2005-08.
On Sunday, Farrell compared Sizemore’s fortuitous rise to the case of Jackie Bradley, Jr., who has had a remarkable spring.
“He was actually optioned out,” Farrell said of Sizemore. “Juan Gonzalez got hurt, and opened up a spot for Grady to make the Opening Day roster. He was pretty good after that.”
Does Bradley pass the eye test in the same way Sizemore did?
“Yes, he plays the game pretty damn well,” Farrell said.
“Could be,” Farrell said.
“He hasn’t been in a prolonged slump,” Farrell said when asked about his performance against left-handers. “He’s taking a very similar approach regardless if it’s right-handed or left-handed. His strike zone awareness is very consistent and he’s hit some good left-handers too.”
Bradley was penciled in as the starting left fielder Sunday against the Phillies, who had left-hander Cliff Lee as the starter against a Red Sox lineup comprised mostly with Opening Day regulars. (Coincidentally, Lee and Sizemore arrived in Cleveland together as part of the Bartolo Colon trade with the Montreal Expos in 2002.)
Farrell said this is a continued test for Bradley, who played left for the first time since his high school days Friday against the Blue Jays.
“This is probably the best environment for him, on the road, away from our ballpark against a very good pitcher,” Farrell said.
Bradley passed his first test, hitting an opposite-field three-run homer off Lee in his first at-bat.
The Red Sox fielded an outfield essentially comprised of three center fielders with Jacoby Ellsbury in center and Shane Victorino in right. The question of whether this mirrors the Opening Day starting lineup will soon be answered, according to Farrell.
“Once we get through the off day, we’ll probably get pretty close to it then,” Farrell said. “In conversation with (Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington), what we don’t want to do is get down to Saturday. We want some of the decisions that need to be finalized before that.”