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Grady Sizemore goes deep, ending 990-day stretch without a homer: ‘I’m just happy to be back’

03.31.14 at 4:33 pm ET
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Red Sox teammates greet Grady Sizemore in the dugout after his home run. (AP)

Red Sox teammates greet Grady Sizemore in the dugout after his home run. (AP)

BALTIMORE — Grady Sizemore punctuated his return to a major league lineup with a pair of landmarks, lining a single to right in his first at-bat, and then, with the Red Sox trailing the Orioles, 1-0, in the top of the fourth, lofting a solo homer to right, just barely clearing the Camden Yards scoreboard to tie the score, 1-1. Sizemore hardly realized what he’d done when the ball left the bat.

“I didn’t think I got it very good but it went,” he recalled. “I think I actually broke my bat so I wasn’€™t really thinking it was going to carry out, but it got up in that wind. … I just saw the ball drop and I thought it may [have] hit off the wall and I saw the umpire giving me the finger up with the round [gesture, signaling a home run] so I was just shocked more than anything.”

The achievement was undeniable, an exclamation mark on his reintroduction to a big league regular season game for the first time since Sept. 22, 2011. While Sizemore made clear that he was disappointed in the outcome of the game, which his team lost, 2-1, an outcome that transcended his day as experienced at the individual level, he also made no attempts to hide the fact that he was elated to be back performing at the level he’d been working for so hard to achieve.

He woke up at 5:45 a.m., anticipating the trip to the field for a 3:05 p.m. start. The day represented enough of a landmark that he had a number of close friends and family members at the game, including his parents, his godfather, a friend and his agent.

“Today was very exciting. I couldn’€™t wait to get to the ballpark. I was up first thing in the morning and definitely had a better appreciations for the game and all the little things that go into it,” said Sizemore. “I think every day I’€™ve been here since spring training has been gratifying. I’€™m just happy to be back, happy to be healthy, looking forward to getting the opportunity to play and help contribute.”

Those around the Sox are now convinced that he will be able to do just that based on what they’ve seen, first in spring training and now with the curtain having lifted on the regular season.

“It was nice to see. It’s good to see him healthy. He’s confident out there. You can see him running around not worrying about anything and just playing the game. He’s going to be big for us,” said teammate Mike Napoli. “It’s pretty incredible. He showed signs in spring training he can do that. It’s one of the reasons why he made the club. He’s got a lot of talent. If he stays healthy, he’ll be a big part of this team.”

Prior to Monday, it had been 990 days since Sizemore had previously gone deep on July 15, 2011, against Orioles hurler Jake Arrieta, a four-bagger that also came in Camden Yards. The Sox appear convinced that the interval between now and his next home run is likely to be shorter.

“The last home run was here in Camden Yards, that’€™s pretty ironic that it takes place here once again but he showed very well,” said manager John Farrell. ‘€œTo see what he did in spring training, it’€™s not completely surprising he did what he did here today.”

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