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Sizemore the leading man in comeback tale

Outfielder bats first for Red Sox in return to baseball after two years away

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It had been nearly 900 days since Grady Sizemore had played in any kind of baseball game, which made Thursday's exhibition game against Northeastern University "exciting" for the veteran outfielder on the comeback trail.

If Sizemore can make it all the way back and play for the Red Sox this season, it could be one of the best stories in the game.

But on this day, as Sizemore led off and started in left field in his first game since Sept. 22, 2011, it was just a day to regain his feel for his job.

"Exciting," Sizemore said. "I was looking forward to it for a couple of days now. I was happy to get out there and get back into games."

This was an uneventful beginning, but a necessary one. Sizemore went 0-for-2, hitting a couple of flyouts. The second one reached the warning track in left.

"Everything was good," Sizemore said. "I'm just trying to get a feel. Each day is going to get better and better, and I'm just trying to feel comfortable out there and not try to do too much. See pitches and go from there."

As both flyouts left his bat, there was no hesitation from Sizemore to test his legs, both of which have been surgically repaired. He came out of the box ready to take an extra base if there was a misplay.

"It's just the way I play, but at the same time, I want to push it," Sizemore said. "I'm not trying to take it easy."

Then there is the other side of him that knows that in some ways, he has to be mindful of all he's gone through.

"Obviously I want to be cautious and be aware of what I've gone through, but I want to give it a good effort, just to make sure everything is good," he said.

Sizemore didn't get any action in his three innings in left. But that will come.

"You want to test yourself, whether it's a ball in the gap or a ball off the wall, whatever that may be, you need to look to get all those plays," Sizemore said. "You can't really simulate that in early work, so you get the reps the best you can."

He will play again on Saturday against the Twins.

If Sizemore can come all the way back, perhaps he can give the Red Sox another dimension and replace some of what was lost when Jacoby Ellsbury went to the Yankees. After all, it was once Ellsbury who was trying to become the type of player Sizemore was for the Indians.

"He's a great player, man," said Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. "He's just been dealing with injuries. He's an All-Star. It's sad that he's been dealing with injuries for the past two, three years. It's hard to want to continue playing when things go that way. But he looked good to me. It looked like everything is back to normal, so hopefully everything works out for him this year."

In truth, Friday -- the day after the game -- will probably be the best gauge of where Sizemore is at in his comeback.

"I'll just test it and see how it feels," Sizemore said. "You'd expect to be maybe a little bit more sore than normal, so not to get too frustrated with that, but if I come in feeling fine, we know I can continue to push it more and build up my innings and go from there."

Ian Browne is a reporter for Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne.

Boston Red Sox, Grady Sizemore