I said it last week. I said it three months ago. I said it when the season ended. The Indians needed to cut ties with the Grady Sizemore era. The reasons were simple: The guy has a broken down body, his skills are eroding, and the Indians cannot afford to bank on a guy that simply cannot be counted on. They had no financial reason to keep him on the roster, yet they decided to give him the one year, $5 million base plus incentives much to my chagrin.
Last Friday afternoon, the Indians let it out that Sizemore had suffered a back injury that would shut him down for the next few weeks. This injury occurred during his knee rehabilitation and before he even stepped foot on the field in Goodyear, Arizona. It was not a good sign. At the time, we were told that he wouldn’t be ready by opening day, something I found curious considering we were still six weeks before the start of the season and Sizemore’s latest ailment was called a “back strain.” Like last year, Grady would start on the DL and hopefully come back a couple of weeks into the season.
Yesterday, Manager Manny Acta told the media that there will be an announcement about Grady’s situation today; something Acta termed “ominous.”
I looked up the definition of the word “Ominous.” Here it is:
Giving the impression that something bad or unpleasant is going to happen.
Now the news has been dropped: Grady will be missing more time than we thought. Eight-to-twelve weeks, in fact.
I don’t want to be the guy who said “I told you so,” but I told you so. I was on record from day one saying this was a bad idea and here we are, not knowing when and if Grady will be back in a Tribe uniform. And when he does come back, will he ever be close to becoming the player that he was from 2005-2009?
Look, I get that the Indians have that history with Grady and want him badly to succeed and make a big comeback, but in the end, counting on Sizemore to play such a big role without covering themselves on the back-end is a huge concern.
You look up now, and all of a sudden, your best left-field option is Shelley Duncan. No offense to Shelley, who I love as a role player, but he is at his best when he is not exposed every single day. Being a bench guy who can play left field and first base and start against tough lefties is what suits Duncan.
With the Tribe in a constant search for that big middle of the order bat ending in 1B Casey Kotchman, they left themselves very vulnerable. With Grady’s injury history so fresh in their minds, wouldn’t the prudent thing have been to add that bat as a guy who can play both first base and the outfield? Or should they have ended up with an outfielder as their free agent signing/trade acquisition and gone through with a plan of rotating Carlos Santana, Duncan, and Michael Brantley (yes, this was out there and discussed this winter) at first. This also would have given the ace defensive catcher Lou Marson more time behind the dish. Had Grady stayed healthy, then you give him plenty of rest days with Brantley taking his place. If Grady gets hurt, Brantley takes over permanently.
Now with the extended absence of Sizemore, there is no doubt that Kotchman will play first base every day. Left field will most likely be manned by Duncan, and right-handed Aaron Cunningham, who Acta singled out as being very impressive so far this Spring, could be the real beneficiary. Cunningham is out of options and was going to be fighting hard to make the club. With Sizemore out, it looks like the former Padres top prospect will get that roster spot.
Another guy who could squeeze out extra playing time will be utility man Jason Donald. JD showed in the final two months of last year that he can handle the stick (.295/.333/.727 in August, .348/.392/.812 in September) and play anywhere on the diamond. The Indians took that a step further this winter by putting Donald in Center field, where reports had him looking very natural. This spring he will also spend a lot of time getting himself better acquainted with the position. It wouldn’t shock me at all to see Donald a couple times a week in the outfield.
All of this comes back to Grady. The Indians gambled that he would get back to his old form and so far, even before one single Spring Training game is played, they look like they have lost. I hope we don’t spend the entire season trying to figure out who can produce regularly in that spot Sizemore was supposed to take. I think we saw enough of that last year with the various injuries to Sizemore, Travis Hafner, and Shin-Soo Choo.
Mark Goldman/Icon SMI