September 19, 2014

Medina
Sunny
60°F

Grady great so far

GOODYEAR, Ariz. —Things have been decidedly different for Grady Sizemore this spring.

He is batting in a new spot under a new manager and is coming off one of the worst years of his career, a season that ended with two surgeries (elbow and ab-dominal).

Still, Sizemore has looked like his former all-star self at the plate and in the field, and that’s a good thing for him and the Indi-ans.

“I’ve felt good all spring,” said Sizemore, who is batting .391 (9-for-23) with a home run, two doubles and nine RBIs in 10 exhibition games after an 0-for-2 per-formance Thursday in Cleveland’s 3-1 victory over the split-squad Seattle Mariners at Goodyear Ball-park. “I haven’t had any setbacks. We took it pretty slow to start off. I didn’t know what to expect after surgery, but everything’s gone well so far.

“I can tell I had surgery, but I don’t feel like it’s hold-ing me back.”

That wasn’t the case in 2009, when an ailing left elbow and left groin plagued Sizemore for the majority of the year and curtailed his production mightily. He hit a career-low .248 with 18 home runs and 64 RBIs in 106 games before mercifully being shut down with a month left in the season.

As Sizemore was recovering from the surgeries, he learned his baseball life was about to change, when Cleveland hired Manny Acta to replace Eric Wedge. One of Acta’s first orders of business as the new manager was to move Sizemore to second in the batting order and out of the leadoff spot —a position Sizemore had occupied his entire five-year career.

It was a move many felt was coming at some point in his career, but it was still a change.

“The ability to hit with guys in front of him,” said Acta when asked why he decided to replace Sizemore with shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera atop the order. “Gradually, we all know that this guy could poten-tially wind up hitting lower in the lineup.”

Sizemore has embraced the new spot this spring.

“I’ve actually felt really comfortable in that posi-tion,” he said. “I haven’t done anything different than when I was leading off. I still don’t approach it any differently.”

Something else Sizemore hasn’t altered is his ap-proach to the leadership role. Though just 27, he is an elder statesman on a young Cleveland roster, but that hasn’t prompted the subdued Sizemore to consider being more vocal in the clubhouse.

“I just kind of let that come to me,” said Sizemore, who along with Jake Westbrook, Travis Hafner and Jhonny Peralta, is one of the longest tenured Indians on the club. “I go about my business the same as I always have. You lead by example. I don’t feel I have to go outside of myself and become someone I’m not.”

So, when the season gets underway April 5, against the White Sox in Chicago, Indians fans can expect to see the same old Sizemore. Despite the injuries last year, that includes him diving and crashing into walls in the outfield and the overall all-out effort he has always produced.

“I don’t feel like I hurt it doing those things,” Sizemore said. “I’m not going to change the way I play.”

Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or cassen-heimer@chroniclet.com.