By CHRIS ASSENHEIMER
Grady Sizemore’s comeback story has returned to the opening chapter.
Sizemore, who spent the first eight years of his big league career with the Indians (2004-11), is back at Progressive Field as a member of the Boston Red Sox.
“It’s a little weird, but exciting,” said Sizemore, who missed all of last season, while recovering from back surgery, but has played in 43 games for Boston this year, entering the series opener Monday night batting .232 with two home runs and 14 RBI. “It still feels like home. I started here. It’s kind of still a piece of me. It’s all weird, the whole experience, just coming back.”
That Sizemore is playing on any level is an accomplishment after the multiple injuries and surgeries he endured once establishing himself as one of the top players in the American League with the Indians.
“I’m just happy to be playing,” he said. “I’m trying to put that behind me and just enjoy being on the field and not worrying about those injuries. It’s been a long road. I just appreciate it that much more.
“I got used to having a lot of setbacks over the last couple years. I’m just happy I’ve been able to stay healthy and able to stay on the field.”
“Watching Grady from the other side, it was hard not be a fan of his,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “He was such a force when he first came into the league that it was hard not to respect how he played. It’s quite an accomplishment the fact that he’s even playing again. I think that anybody that ever saw him felt like he was growing into a force. And he seemed to do it in a very respectful way, which makes it easier to pull for guys like that.”
A story in ESPN The Magazine seemed to insinuate that Boston’s medical staff was able to discover something that Cleveland’s wasn’t. But Sizemore would not criticize Indians doctors.
“They went above and beyond for me,” he said. “If anything, they were as frustrated as I was just trying to find a reason behind it and trying to find a solution. They were very helpful. They gave me every opportunity and they went to every length to try to help me.”
The Indians made a bullpen move, recalling left-hander Nick Hagadone from Triple-A Columbus, while optioning right-hander Mark Lowe back to the Clippers.
Though this is his second stint with the Indians, all of Hagadone’s appearances this year have come with Columbus — 2-3, 3.09 ERA in 18 games.
Lowe, signed at the end of spring training, appeared in four games for Cleveland, allowing a run over 4.1 innings.
The Indians also saw hard-throwing right-hander Blake Wood lost on waivers to Kansas City. Wood made the team out of training camp, but struggled with control and was designated for assignment.
Brantley or bust
The Indians finally have a player among the top 10 in fan All-Star voting — left fielder Michael Brantley, who was ninth among AL outfielders in the latest voting results.
That’s not good enough for Francona.
“I wish he wasn’t ninth. I wish he was first or second,” he said. “He’s one of the better players in the game. And it’s not just hitter, it’s baserunner, outfielder, teammate. He’s gotten to that point where I think you’re going to start seeing national recognition.”
Though they expect a boost in attendance, according to a team spokesman, the Indians have seen no significant ticket spike since the announcement that Browns first-round draft pick Johnny Manziel would throw out the ceremonial first pitch Wednesday.
Fellow first-round draft pick Justin Gilbert will join Manziel, while Browns running back Ben Tate will toss out the first pitch tonight.
The focus is clearly on Manziel, Cleveland’s new rock star quarterback. Even Francona is excited to see him in person.
“Yeah, a little bit,” Francona said when asked if he had “Johnny Football” fever.
With the Red Sox in town, the subject of Francona’s former managerial tenure (2004-11) always comes up.
“You spend eight years in a place you’re going to get close to a lot of people,” Francona said. “But because I’m so comfortable (in Cleveland), it doesn’t make it hard.”
Francona guided the Red Sox to two World Series titles, but it wasn’t all good times. He was unceremoniously fired after Boston collapsed at the end of the 2011 season, and he had issues with players, including former Indian Manny Ramirez, a player/manager with the Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate, who played in Boston from 2001-08.
“Manny, for the most part, is a really lovable guy,” Francona said. “When you’re in charge of a team and along with that comes discipline and everybody doing things one way, you can be kind of in a precarious spot sometimes with Manny. That’s just kind of stating the truth. So, sometimes we bumped heads.”
Deposed closer John Axford (1-3, 3.74 ERA, nine saves) had not appeared in Cleveland’s last five games through Sunday. The right-hander hasn’t allowed a run over his last three outings (3.1 innings), striking out five and walking none.