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Buster Olney on M&M: Grady Sizemore-Jackie Bradley Jr. battle ‘a great problem for the Red Sox to have’

03.26.14 at 1:09 pm ET
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Buster Olney

Buster Olney

ESPN’s Buster Olney made an appearance on the Mut & Merloni show on Wednesday to talk about the Red Sox as they head into the home stretch of spring training. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

The big story at Sox camp this week is the emergence of Grady Sizemore as the leading candidate to start in center field ahead of Jackie Bradley Jr.

“We had the Red Sox-Yankees last Thursday night [on ESPN]. I drove down to Fort Myers. I got out of the car, and literally the first person I saw when I got out of the car was this scout who was pulling in, staying at the same hotel. He looked at me and his first words were, ‘Have you seen Grady Sizemore?’ And he went on and on about how, ‘You’d think that he would have lost timing after that much time off, but he looks great in that regard. He looks like he can play the outfield.’ He went on and on and on,” Olney said.

“When I talked to Grady later that day, he was so excited about how he feels. The Red Sox are certainly excited. … What a great problem for the Red Sox to have, especially given what they’re dealing with in terms of losing Jacoby Ellsbury.”

Assuming Sizemore wins the starting job, Olney said it makes sense to send Bradley to the minors.

“I know that internally they’ve talked through all the options,” Olney said. “They talked about, ‘If we keep Sizemore and Bradley, are we going to get enough playing time for Bradley that we want. Who would be the guy that would move to another position?’ We got some insight into that yesterday when [Shane] Victorino was out and they put Bradley in right field. But I think generally speaking, they know that at his age — he turns 24 in April — that he needs to play every day. And I think ultimately that’s what they’ll decide.

“And I think that’s why the general feeling among the people you talk to — and it’s still an educated guess — is that the Red Sox are leaning more toward Sizemore because of how great he’s looked.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

On if Jon Lester‘s contract negotiations will come to a postitive end soon: “I think it all depends on whether or not Jon Lester pushes it across the finish line. Because I think the Red Sox, given their current operating philosophy, I think the feeling is that there’s going to be a number — and I don’t know exactly what it is — where they’re going to say, ‘This is our comfort level and you’re going to have do to that,’ in the same way that they did with Dustin Pedroia.

“If it’s going to happen, it’s going to be as it happened with Dustin. It’s going to be because Lester makes it happen. We’ll see. He certainly expressed a desire to stay.”

On if Lester can continue his recent success: “I’m in the camp that believes that he turned a corner the last three months [of 2013] and entered a path that’s he’s going to stay on. The Jon Lester pre-August, I think that’s in the past. I think he learned about pitching to both sides of the plate. I think he’s now climbed into the upper echelon of pitchers and he’ll follow up on what he did late last season. And if that happens this year, absolutely he’ll get some impressive offers [if he becomes a free agent next offseason].”

On the AL East race: “I think that the Blue Jays are not going to be a factor in the division. I went to spring training thinking I was going to pick the Rays to win the division. And then I was around the Red Sox for a few days. You see the depth in the organization, you know the financial depth they have. I picked them to win the division. I think I had them at 95 wins. I’ve got the Rays finishing second, 92. I’ve got the Yankees and the Orioles out of the playoffs at 89 wins. But it is going to be a dogfight. All of these teams, these four teams, have had great spring trainings. The Red Sox have, the Yankees have, the Rays have, the Orioles have certainly been augmented by these guys they added late in spring training. I can’t wait.”

Read More: buster olney, grady sizemore, Jacie Bradley Jr., Jon Lester
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