Posted on: February 28, 2012 5:25 pm
Edited on: February 28, 2012 5:57 pm
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians and their fans remember the vintage days of Grady Sizemore: All-Star, Gold Glover, Silver Slugger, game-changer, face of the franchise.
Now, they just hope there's room left for Grady Sizemore, major-leaguer.
Though the Indians said he was around Tuesday, he was nowhere in sight. He was off getting his back checked out after another injury in a string that makes you wonder whether there are many days left in his career.
"He was one of the reasons I came here to manage," skipper Manny Acta said Tuesday. "I was like, 'Man, that guy is going to win some games all by himself. The excitement, when you have a guy like that."
Instead, while rehabbing his knee the other day following arthroscopic surgery this winter, Sizemore suffered a back injury and will be sidelined indefinitely. Then, in what has been a nightmarish first couple of days of camp, closer Chris Perez suffered an oblique strain. It's estimated he will be out for four-to-six weeks.
Suddenly, one of the few teams in the AL Central that at least has a chance to challenge Detroit already is playing from behind.
"Better to happen now than during the season," Perez said after his own day of rehab. "We're not missing any games yet.
"Me, personally, I'm just happy it's not my elbow or shoulder. It's just an oblique."
Perez predicts he'll be ready for Cleveland's April 5 opener against Toronto. Because he only pitches one inning at a time, the Indians think all he'll need is four or five appearances to be ready.
Whether or not that's overly optimistic, barring some other setback, the Indians should be able to count on Perez sooner rather than later this season.
They have not been able to count on Sizemore, whom they brought back on a one-year, $5 million deal this winter, since 2009. That's the last time he played in as many as 100 games (106).
Microfracture surgery on his left knee limited him to 33 games in 2010, and he made three different trips to the DL last season (both knees) in a 2011 season in which he played in only 71 games.
Quite a difference from 2005-2008, when he played in a total of 639 of Cleveland's 648 games. Given the wear and tear a player takes in center field, especially someone who plays it with the reckless abandon of Sizemore (think: Darin Erstad), you wonder if he's used up his nine lives.
Veteran Michael Brantley is the probable center fielder and lead-off hitter if Sizemore can't make it. But that leaves left field wide open for someone among a cast of several -- veterans Aaron Cunningham and Shelley Duncan, rookies Russ Canzler (the MVP of the Triple A International League last summer) and Thomas Neal. ...
One thing the Indians don't need is another season of pain. A year ago, they raced to a 30-15 start -- only to see that sabotaged in no small part by DL stints to key players. They used the DL 22 times, second-most in the AL. Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo were together in the same starting lineup for a total of just 17 games in 2011.
Less than a week into camp, already there are warning flares around Sizemore.
"You feel bad for the kid because he's dying to be out there," Acta said. "He's such a dynamic kid, such a big part of what we do.
"He doesn't seem to catch a break."
Sunblock Day? At your discretion. The wind storm blew through, and it cooled down to the low 60s.
Likes: Enjoyable evening Monday at Arizona State University's Cronkite School of Journalism, where a panel of us discussing spring training coverage. Really enjoyed meeting the kids, and some good questions. ... He was difficult to deal with as a player, but it was cool to see Albert Belle visit the Indians for the first time since he left Cleveland at the end of the 1996 season. Belle was a visitor at Tuesday's camp thanks to persistent recruiting from guest instructors (and former teammates) Carlos Baerga and Kenny Lofton. ... Killer stuff from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band on Jimmy Fallon's show Monday night. Wrecking Ball and We Take Care of Our Own were absolutely smokin'. ... The mesquite grilled shrimp burrito at Rubio's. Rarely do I stray from their fish tacos, but this was worth it. ... Good chicken enchiladas at Matador Mexican Restaurant in downtown Phoenix the other night, but no margaritas to go with 'em. They told us they had lost their liquor license a couple of days earlier. I'd recommend they figure out a way to get it back soon, because a Mexican place that does not serve margaritas soon will not be a Mexican place. It will be, I don't know, a flower shop.
Dislikes: Any school shooting is just inexplicable, and so it is with another, the one at Chardon (Ohio) High School on Monday. Indians owner Larry Dolan has extensive ties to that community and issued this statement: "On behalf of the Cleveland Indians baseball organization, and specifically the Dolan family whose roots are deep in the Chardon community, we offer our deepest sympathy to all involved in this senseless tragedy. We pray that the strength necessary to endure all the pain will come to the survivors. We hope for all of you peace and tranquility in due time."
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"The silicon chip inside her head
"Gets switched to overload
"And nobody's gonna go to school today
"She's going to make them stay at home
"And daddy doesn't understand it
"He always said she was as good as gold
"And he can see no reason
"'Cause there are no reasons
"What reason do you need to be shown?"
-- Boomtown Rats, I Don't Like Mondays
Posted on: May 8, 2011 6:40 pm
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- This might sound funny, but the fact that Grady Sizemore has hit so well since returning to the Indians lineup on April 17 is almost a bonus. What Cleveland was celebrating upon first welcoming back the three-time All-Star was simply what he brings with him into the clubhouse.
Sizemore is one of a handful of elite players in the majors whose mere presence makes everyone around him better.
"You see the way he plays the game, the way he runs out every ground ball, the way he's diving all over the place," designated hitter Travis Hafner says. "He's the first one here every day. Him and Shin-Soo Choo are our two best players, and when they play that way, it just sets the tone."
Maybe something like a team's best talent always hustling should be taken for granted, but anybody who's watched Detroit's Miguel Cabrera "run" to first at times knows that the tone can be set in the wrong direction, too.
"Obviously, what he's done speaks for itself," outfielder Austin Kearns says. "But just his presence every day, how he goes about his business, how he plays the game ... it's the way it's supposed to be done."
Though the Indians dropped Sunday's series finale in Anaheim 6-5, they still earned a split on their West Coast trip (3-3) and have won nine of 12, and Sizemore on Sunday went 3 for 5 (including a homer and a double) and continued to spark the Tribe after a tough, tough year.
Micro-fracture surgery is not a first choice if you're an athlete facing the knife. It's a nasty injury with a long, tedious rehabilitation. Sizemore had the surgery on his left knee last June and hadn't played since last May 16 [aside, of course, from a minor-league injury rehab assignment just before being activated in mid-April].
Sizemore says, as Tom Petty once did, the waiting was the hardest part.
"I think just the time away from the team while you're rehabbing, it's frustrating," says Sizemore, 28. "The amount of time it takes.
"Every case is different. I didn’t really have a set program. You're really going month-to-month. We had a general outline, and I was constantly going back to the doctor to get re-examined and see where I'm at."
How many times? Too many to count, Sizemore says. But it was every five or six weeks for the past year.
Baseball-wise, the most difficult part of coming back after missing so much time, Sizemore says, is, "it's all difficult. The hardest part was probably stuff you can't simulate in games -- balls in the gap, rounding the bases hard, having to come to a complete stop when you're running."
Of course, by roaring off to a 10-4 start before Sizemore's return, the Indians didn't make it any easier on the poor guy.
"It was fun to watch, but it made the time I had left to return that much harder," Sizemore says, smiling.
But now, it makes things that much easier -- except, perhaps, where the outfielder's future is involved. In the final season of a six-year, $23.45 million contract, the Indians hold an $8.5 million option on him for 2012 (with a $500,000 buyout), though that becomes a player option if he's traded.
Though his long-term future in Cleveland seems doubtful, at this point, he's probably safe from any stealth July deals.
"I'm just trying to get through the weeks right now," Sizemore says. "It's the furthest thing from my ming right now. My biggest thing was to get back on the field, and not look past tomorrow."
Likes: Hitting streaks. ... Derek Jeter passing Cal Ripken Jr. for most games played at shortstop with one team. And after his two homers Sunday and boosting his average up to .276, maybe now he's earned another grace period. ... Rookie phenom debuts, and Eric Hosmer's mother, father, brother, aunt and uncle all flying into Kansas City from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for his debut on Friday night. ... Tom Hamilton, now in his 22nd season as the radio voice of the Cleveland Indians. Always great fun talking with Tom. ... Friday Night Lights back on television. Four shows into its final season and I'm still debating whether to just pick up the entire season on DVD. If I get the DVDs, I can rip through all 15 episodes. But not having the DVDs slows down the process and forces me to savor each episode for just a little longer. It's such a great show.
Dislikes: Awful, awful stuff in post-tornado Alabama. Here's a list of ways you can help.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers
-- Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sweet Home Alabama