Capped by an Opening Day homer, Grady Sizemore's return to the majors with the Red Sox after missing all of 2012 and 2013 made for one of the spring's top feel-good stories. Since that first game, however, it's been nearly all downhill, and on Tuesday, the struggling Sox (32-38, and just 6-9 in June) designated him for assignment.
In 205 plate appearances spread over 52 games, the 31-year-old Sizemore has hit just .216/.288/.324 with two homers. That's a far cry from the .281/.372/.496 he hit for the Indians while averaging 27 homers, 29 steals and 6.2 wins above replacement from 2005-2008, a span during which he earned All-Star honors three times. In fact, his performance bears all too much resemblance to the .220/.280/.379 he hit in in 435 PA for the Indians in 2010-2011 while missing time due to microfracture surgery on his left knee, a contusion on his right knee, and a sports hernia.
Signed by the Sox to a $750,000 deal plus incentives back in January, Sizemore played well enough during the spring to earn a roster spot amid a crowded outfield that included rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. and veterans Mike Carp, Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava and Shane Victorino. Bradley, who had minor-league options remaining, was initially sent to Triple-A Pawtucket just before Opening Day, but when a right hamstring strain forced Victorino to the disabled list, he was recalled. Sizemore got the call in centerfield for six of Boston's first eight games, with Bradley taking the other two starts there plus three in right. Since then, Sizemore has seen more time in the corners than in center, but his playing time has dwindled; prior to being DFA'd he had started just twice in nine games.
The reality is that none of Boston's six outfielders have been anywhere near as productive as anticipated. The unit as a whole is hitting just .227.303/.332 for a 75 OPS+, the league's second-worst mark. That's no small part of the reason why the Sox are averaging just 3.91 runs per game, third-worst in baseball. Gomes (.241/.341/.386) is the only one of the bunch who has managed to hit better than league average, though his 101 OPS+ is down from last year's 110. Bradley, who was expected to take over center with the departure of Jacoby Ellsbury, has hit a dismal .205/.293/.298 for a 64 OPS+ while striking out 30.9 percent of the time -- more often than any other AL qualifier besides George Springer and Adam Dunn, who have a combined 23 homers to Bradley's one. Carp hit just .214/.317/.286 (69 OPS+) in 82 PA before going on the disabled list with a fractured right foot on June 1; he won't be back until later this month at the earliest. Victorino was active for a month between DL stints for his hamstring, hitting .242/.276/.352 (72 OPS+) in 99 PA; he began a rehab assignment at Pawtucket on Saturday and will remain there through at least this coming Saturday. Nava has hit just .204/.301/.296 (66 OPS+) in 123 PA while also spending a month at Pawtucket. He's showed signs of getting back in the groove by going 12-for-31 this month.
Sizemore has lately been losing time both to Nava and to Brock Holt, who prior to June 8 had never played the outfield professionally. The 26-year-old rookie has given the Red Sox's offense a jolt by hitting .333/.375/.456 in 161 PA, mainly as a third baseman with some time at first base as well. With the return of Stephen Drew forcing Xander Bogaerts to the hot corner, manager John Farrell decided to try Holt in leftfield, and he's taken to the spot to the point of starting six of the team's last nine games there, with one in right as well. Farrell has gone so far as to pencil Holt's name into the starting lineup in centerfield for Tuesday night's game against the Twins.
To replace Sizemore on the 25-man roster, the team has called up 23-year-old third baseman Garin Cecchini. A well-regarded prospect who could take over third base next year with Bogaerts returning to shortstop, Cecchini went 2-for-4 in his major-league debut back on June 1 before being returned to Pawtucket. This stay is likely to be a short one as well given the pending activations of both Victorino and pitcher Felix Doubront, who could pitch on Friday if Brandon Workman's suspension is upheld.