Two of the most interesting comebacks to watch this spring will be Grady Sizemore and Daniel Bard.
Red Sox manager John Farrell and assistant GM Mike Hazen knew Sizemore well in Cleveland, where from 2005 to 2008 he averaged 27 homers, an .862 OPS and averaged 160 games played. Then came injuries, two microfiber injuries and in four years averaged 52 games played.
Sizemore essentially has taken two years to get his body back to where it is physiologically, a long process of strengthening every part of his body and get him back to where he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Sizemore won’t be 32 until August, his body is finally balanced, and it is a gamble worth taking, especially when Farrell and Hazen vividly remember how good and utterly selfless he was when the Indians were going to the seventh game of the 2007 ALCS.
Sizemore’s signing isn’t a goodbye to Jackie Bradley, Jr., as John Farrell made clear. Farrell, Ben Cherington and Mike Hazen like to store as much potential depth and flexibility as possible, and Sizemore gives them such. The manager knows how much everyone in the Cleveland organization respected him.
Daniel Bard is still only 28. It wasn’t long ago that he threw between 96 and 100 MPH and was close to the best setup reliever in the game, with 9.9 strikeouts per 9 innings and a 2.43 ERA from 2009 to the end of August 2011. Then wildness struck, and last season in the Red Sox and Cubs organizations he threw only 15 1/3 innings, struck out nine, walked 27, threw 11 wild pitches and had an inexplicable drop in velocity. That was followed by an even rougher stint in the Puerto Rican League this winter.
Because he complained about his feel of the ball and the velocity drop, he went to doctors, and ended up having surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome similar to the procedures to Chris Carpenter, Josh Beckett, Shaun Marcum and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
The medical consensus was that his wildness may have been medical, not psychological, and now that he’s begun his throwing program the Cubs, Rays and other teams are going in to watch him and determine where he can try to begin his comeback. Bard and Grady Sizemore, who after nearly two years of balancing his body and getting healthy, could be two fascinating spring training stories.
–I asked two international scouting directors who do considerable work in Japan about who might be the next Tanaka coming out of Japan, and both said there is no comparable pitcher that will be coming out in the next couple of years. “There are some relievers we’ll be watching this year,” says one, “but no physical, top of the rotation horse like Tanaka.”
–As usual, while the other teams in the AL East spend, the Rays operate under the radar, and other clubs think they made a useful deal to get Logan Forsythe from the Padres. Joe Maddon loves flexibility, and one former Padre official says he can play second, third and the outfield. “He’s athletic, he can get on base,” says the official. “I like him.”
–The Orioles have had a dreadful PR off-season between the declining of Grant Balfour based on a physical, now the decline of outfielder Ty Colvin for the same reasons and what essentially was the non-tender of closer Jim Johnson. The best pitching is too expensive for their tastes, but with a need for one more power bat, Baltimore could sign Nelson Cruz and stick him into a very potent lineup while their window of opportunity is open in 2014-2015. After that, they will have lost Chris Davis and Matt Wieters to free agency, but their young pitchers like Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy and Eduardo Rodriguez may be regulars in their rotation with nearly three years of development under Dave Wallace and Dom Chiti.