Jackie Bradley Jr. starting Opening Day in centerfield was once a forgone conclusion, but it seems that it could be in question. Newly acquired Grady Sizemore has had a good spring thus far and has Red Sox fans questioning who will be the team’s starting centerfielder in Baltimore on March 31?
Sizemore has been the media and fan favorite so far in spring training. He has hit .364 in four games for the Red Sox. Sizemore has shown flashes of his former blazing speed in the field and on the bases, as his first base speed last week was clocked in 4.2 seconds. Before injuries sidelined him, he reportedly ran to first base in 4.14 seconds
The problem with starting Sizemore on Opening Day is that he’s still on a managed schedule by manager John Farrell. He has played in one back to back game so far this spring, and we don’t know if Sizemore’s body can handle the everyday grind of the Major League Baseball season. Until the former All-Star shows he can play in multiple back-to-back games, we must have doubts Sizemore can stay healthy.
Bradley has struggled at the plate this spring. He is only hitting .190 with a .261 on-base percentage. For those that are already voicing to send the former South Carolina Gamecock back to Pawtucket, just remember the way a player plays in spring training doesn’t always mean they will play the same way during the regular season.
Bradley Jr. hit .419 during spring training in 2013 and the Red Sox placed him on the 25 man roster to start the season. Once the regular season started, he struggled against major league pitching, hitting .097 before he was sent down to Pawtucket to make room for David Ortiz.
There isn’t enough room on the roster for both Sizemore and Bradley. Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava share outfield duties in left field and utility man Mike Carp is also still on the roster. Boston will either have to trade Carp, send Bradley down to Pawtucket or place Sizemore in extended spring training.
Boston still views Bradley as their future center fielder and still appears to be the favorite to start Opening Day. He plays good defense, but just needs to be more consistent at the plate. Bradley is just 23-years-old, so it isn’t time to give up on him just yet.
Red Sox fans should still temper their expectations for Sizemore. He hasn’t played a meaningful inning since 2011 and at best could be the perfect back-up outfielder. We just need to see more from Sizemore before we say he’s ready to become an everyday starter.