Jackie Bradley Jr. is in a heated battle with Grady Sizemore for the Red Sox' starting center field job. Credit: Getty Images
Once Jacoby Ellsbury departed for New York, it was assumed Jackie Bradley Jr. would take over in center field — even after the Red Sox signed veteran Grady Sizemore in December.
The 31-year-old Sizemore, who hasn’t played in a regular season MLB game in over two years, has exceeded all expectations this spring, showing no ill-effects of two sports hernia surgeries, surgery on his left elbow and knee, two surgeries on his right knee and back surgery — all coming since 2009.
“I’m just happy to be healthy, be out there playing and be able to do those things,” Sizemore said Monday after going 3-for-4, raising his average this spring to .381 and making two spectacular catches in the outfield.
Manager John Farrell has given no official indication on who the starting center fielder would be, but did say in the past week nothing has “radically changed” the thought of Bradley Jr. as the starting center fielder.
Currently, the Red Sox have six outfielders competing for five spots in Bradley Jr., Sizemore, Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava and Mike Carp. One option is to make Sizemore the opening day center fielder and have Bradley Jr. open the year in Pawtucket, but Bradley Jr. seems ready to make the full-time jump to the majors and the team would be left with Sizemore and Victorino as the only options to play center.
Not an ideal situation with the club wanting to keep Victorino in right field as much as possible and Sizemore having not played in two seasons as well as coming back from all of his procedures, especially with 13 games in 14 days to open the year all in cold weather cities.
Another option could be trading Carp to free up a spot as there have been teams interested in the utility player, but he proved how valuable he is to any team last season, hitting .296 in 86 games while playing a number of positions.
“We’re staying very open-minded to this,” Farrell said. “Our memory serves us well. We knew what kind of player (Sizemore) was. We just had to stay open-minded to the evaluation of spring training and see how he performed. He’s performed very well.”
The Red Sox are preparing for any scenario as Nava will likely see some action in center field in the remaining spring training games in case he needed to play there come the regular season.
Regardless of what happens, the only real certainty is one of the current six outfielders will not be on the Opening Day roster come March 31 in Baltimore.
Follow Metro Boston Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter@Hannable84