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Sizemore to start Opening Day for Red Sox

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Grady Sizemore, who hasn't played in a big league game since Sept. 22, 2011, was named the Red Sox's Opening Day center fielder over No. 3 prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. on Friday morning.

The 31-year-old had been a three-time All-Star center fielder with the Indians until enduring a series of knee injuries. Little was known about what Sizemore would bring to the table when the Red Sox signed him to a one-year deal in late January after he'd been out of the Majors for two full seasons.

"It's nice to have some positive news," said Sizemore. "In the last couple of years, everything's been so negative. It's almost hard to realize what's going on. Hard to sink in."

Sizemore has put that behind him this spring, managing to stay healthy and hit .333 in 39 at-bats, adding one home run and two RBIs. Manager John Farrell said he's been impressed with his balance and timing at the plate. Sizemore has also made a few highlight-reel grabs in center field.

Farrell gave Sizemore the good news around 11 a.m. ET and that he was smiling ear to ear. Sizemore said he immediately called family and friends after getting the news.

"I didn't think it was over. I just didn't know if I'd ever get back to feeling healthy," Sizemore said. "It wasn't really a matter of playing baseball, it was the little things like being able to run. It was one of those things where you're just trying to find answers."

Bradley, who was in competition with Sizemore for the center-field job, was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket prior to Friday's game.

What likely gave Sizemore the edge was his ability to stay healthy after playing three consecutive games earlier in the week. The team knew it would be an important test to see if he could deal with the demands of the regular season.

"As far as the durability question, we answered it as best we could given the number of Spring Training games," Farrell said. "He will still be on a progression in the month of April where there's a prescribed number of games played, and there's a progression to that. It's premature to give you an exact number of games per week, but we're working toward an everyday status."

Even with the validation that Sizemore is physically ready for Opening Day in Baltimore, the Red Sox realize the precautions that must be taken for a player who had microfracture surgery on both knees.

Farrell said that the team will monitor the situation on a weekly basis, looking at the opposition's starters and off-days on the schedule.

"This is a rarity. It really speaks to his work ethic and athleticism," Farrell said. "This is why he is going north with us."

Quinn Roberts is a reporter for

Boston Red Sox, Jackie Bradley Jr., Grady Sizemore