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Grady Sizemore will not bat leadoff to start season

03.27.14 at 4:54 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox have yet to make a definitive announcement regarding who will be their Opening Day center fielder. But manager John Farrell did express one certainty on Thursday: If Grady Sizemore makes the team as its Opening Day center fielder, he won’t hit leadoff.

Though Sizemore was once one of the game’s most dynamic leadoff hitters, Farrell said that there were a couple of reasons that left him inclined (again, assuming Sizemore is on the roster) to have someone else in the top spot. First,Farrell wants to get a high on-base player at the top of the order. For now, Sizemore has been more of a contact hitter (.306 average) than an on-base machine (two walks, .342 OBP) in his return to games this spring. Moreover, Farrell noted that lowering Sizemore in the order would be one way of making the buildup in his workload more gradual as he attempts to return to the big leagues after not playing at any level in two and a half years.

“We look at those top spots in the lineup as on bases being the most important, and we also factor in, if it were to be Grady, there’s a potential of one more at-bat every single night, and how does that cumulative effect affect him given the amount of time off?” noted Farrell. “We’d probably see him middle, where he’s at, in the five/six range, in the lineup initially.”

Farrell expects that Daniel Nava would get the lion’s share of leadoff duty, particularly against right-handed starters, with Shane Victorino batting behind Nava in the No. 2 spot.

“We want to take advantage of Nava’s on-base abilities and what Shane does in the two-hole, specifically,” said Farrell. “That’s what’s going into it, in addition to the time down and the reps that would be had.”

For the sake of context, it’s worth noting that the Red Sox leadoff hitter came to the plate 780 times last year, while the No. 5 hitter had 710 plate appearances and the No. 6 hitter stepped to the plate 694 times.

Meanwhile, the role of the middle of the lineup isn’t entirely unfamiliar to Sizemore. Though he’s best known for his leadoff work, about 18 percent of his plate appearances have come in a slot other than the top one. When he last played in the big leagues in 2011, he spent 30 games at leadoff, six batting second, 19 hitting fifth, 11 batting sixth and made one start in the seven hole.

Meanwhile, in a development somewhat related to the comfort the Sox will (or will not) have with the idea of opening the season with Sizemore in the big leagues, Shane Victorino — who had been held out of games for the last two days due to soreness in his left side — played in a minor league game, where he went 3-for-6 while playing an inning of right field and five in center; he’s expected to be playing in a big league spring training game tomorrow, meaning that the Sox do not feel that the disabled list to start the year is a possibility for him.

While Farrell said that Victorino continues to exhibit greater comfort in right than center, he also acknowledged that the reigning AL Gold Glove right field will see time at both positions, regardless of whether Bradley or Sizemore is the Opening Day center fielder.

“He seems to get better reads on balls in right field, despite playing far fewer games as a right fielder, whether it’s the angle or it’s comfort,” said Farrell. “But regardless of who our starting center fielder is, I still envision Shane getting reps in center field, whether that’s to finish out a given game or a spot start, those are all real possibilities.”

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

— The Sox are expected to announce most of their cuts later on Thursday. However, the decision in center field on Sizemore and Bradley isn’t expected to be announced until Friday.

— Left-hander Craig Breslow threw an inning in a minor league game, allowing a run on two hits and an error (an inning-ending double play ball that was muffed) while striking out a batter and throwing 10 of 15 pitches for strikes. The Sox plan to announce later on Thursday whether his two minor league games will suffice for inclusion on the Opening Day roster, or if he’ll start on the DL while building arm strength, but the returns on Thursday’s outing were positive.

“There was increased life to his stuff. He felt well physically. The most important thing is the overall life to all his pitches through the strike zone without overworking to generate that added velocity. He feels like he’s in a good place physically,” said Farrell. “We’ll have a more definitive announcement on his status as well later.”

Read More: Craig Breslow, grady sizemore, Shane Victorino, spring training 2014
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