Red Sox notebook Friday: Grady Sizemore, Daniel Nava to play Saturday, Christian Vazquez takes ‘big step forward’
|02.28.14 at 11:18 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — All the reports on Grady Sizemore came back very positive Friday morning so his return to game action will continue on Saturday at Hammond Stadium against the Twins.
“Grady feels great,” manager John Farrell said. “He came out of yesterday’s three innings, two at-bats feeling good. I’m sure he was eager to get going. First time in a couple of years being in a live game but he has responded well.”
Sizemore, who missed all of 2012 and ’13 with back and knee injuries, flied out to center in his first at-bat in the first inning and flew out to left in the second inning. It was his first game action of any kind since Sept. 2011. Farrell said Sizemore will play center after playing left field on Thursday against Northeastern.
Another rehabbing outfielder will get his first taste of game action on Saturday when Daniel Nava returns from a neck ailment and plays left field. Nava missed some time early in camp after waking up one morning with stiffness and soreness in the back of his neck.
Christian Vazquez continues to impress the Red Sox with his offensive development. On Thursday, he homered over the Jet Blue Monster in left against Boston College. The ninth-round pick from 2008 has always had shown signs of power, hitting as many as 18 homers with Single-A Greenville in 2011, driving in 84 runs in 105 games and batting .283. He seemed to be on the fast track in 2012 when he batted .266 in 81 games for High-A Salem. But he dropped to .205 in 20 games with Double-A Portland to close out ’12.
Last year, mostly spent at Portland, he had a breakout season of sorts, batting .289 with a .376 OBP in 96 games.
“Big step forward last year. Improved average but I think more than anything, when you start to see the walks and strikeouts start to even out, I think that speaks to his confidence in the [batter's] box and be comfortable and remain calm in some of those two-strike situations. He’s an exciting-looking player and a solid step forward, offensively, last year.”
With a gun for an arm and very quick feet, his defensive skills have never been doubted from the moment he was drafted as a 17-year-old out of Puerto Rico. Farrell says Vazquez will take the next step in developing game-calling skills and handling a pitching staff.
“Those [skills] are evident,” Farrell said. “The game-calling are to hinge a lot on the strengths of the given pitcher on the mound and how familiar is he with that individual. There’s a good foundation already in place, and that starts from the time they’re in rookie ball and that building block is there. But what he has also shown is the ability to read some swings and use that to make some pitch selections. He’s on a very good path as far as the position is concerned, all phases.”
More from Farrell on Friday morning before the Grapefruit League opener against the Twins:
“I think the health was first and foremost,” Farrell added, referring to his injury-plagued 2012 season with Portland. “But he’s also made an adjustment in his delivery where he’s quickened the tempo inside his delivery where it’s given him more of an attack mentality. I think it’s given him a little bit more of a presence on the mound, physically, and it’s worked well for him.”
“Every player and pitcher has individual needs as they ramp up the volume and we’ve discovered through last year’s experience that this pace and this program has worked well for him and that’s what we continue to do.”
“He’s been pitching a long time. Even when you look at the last year in Cincinnati where he still had a high number of saves (37 in 2011), he did it a little bit differently than he did in previous years. He started to use his slider and changeup a little bit more. He pitched, using his full assortment rather than being a little bit one-dimensional when he had that really good power.
“In the early read on things, with a veteran guy, you temper the weight on the controlled situations. The hitters he faces in camp is going to tell us what we need to know.”
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