Struggles of Grady Sizemore, Red Sox outfield could force shakeup

May 21, 2014 - 9:17 pm

Six weeks into his first season playing baseball full-time since 2011, Grady Sizemore is not having his way at the plate. The Red Sox outfielder is hitting .218 with a .293 OBP and .336 slugging mark with two home runs, 13 RBIs, six doubles and one triple. Sizemore's 0-for-4 performance in Wednesday night's 6-4 loss to the Blue Jays represents a consistent trend in his play as of late. In his last nine games, Sizemore is hitting .143 with one home run, two RBIs and a .225 on-base percentage. Red Sox manager John Farrell saw Sizemore chase breaking balls running away from the strike zone and swing early at changeups. Both pitches have been giving the 31-year-old issues at the plate. "He finds himself in that spot a couple of times tonight -- bases loaded and then later on in the game getting pitched to," Farrell said. "[Aaron] Loup made a good breaking-ball pitch to him that he gets a strikeout and a swing and miss, but to me, against right-handers he's out front on a changeup, and the breaking ball to left-handers has given him some trouble." Health is not a concern for Sizemore six weeks into the season. "It's nothing to do with health," Sizemore said. "I'm just not having good at-bats and not swinging at good pitches. Just missing pitches is one of those things where I'm in a funk." While Sizemore's struggles at the plate certainly represent a sliver of the issues in the Red Sox's pyramid of issues at the plate, his lack of production has contributed to the Boston outfield's desperate collective offensive struggles. As a group, the Red Sox rank 29th in all of baseball in batting average (.225), 25th in on-base percentage (.303), 27th in slugging percentage (.342) and 25th in wins above replacement (-0.3). The group of outfielders, which has consisted of Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Jackie Bradley Jr., Daniel Nava, Mike Carp and Sizemore, has not been getting it done at the plate. As a group on Wednesday, the outfielders generated one hit in 14 at-bats. Farrell says there have been discussions about the possibility of reconfiguring the team's outfield personnel, but with no firm plan to change the team's alignment. "There's ongoing discussion, not just today but there has been for some time. We're trying to get the best read we can on our guys here," said Farrell. "That doesn't suggest there's any change imminent." As for Sizemore in particular, he is 1-for-16 with 12 groundouts and two strikeouts on the homestand. The Red Sox have been patient throughout the year with him, recognizing the transition he faces after such a lengthy hiatus from the game, but at a certain point he will have to prove he's worthy of playing time. "I think what we're seeing is a guy that'€™s getting past the physical questions stage and he's no longer, there's no longer any questions about whether he can play and do the things physically he needs to to go play. That doesn't mean he doesn't get treatment still, but he's kind of like everyone else in the clubhouse in that respect," general manager Ben Cherington said Wednesday. "Now that he's fully past that question, what can he do as a player? We've seen some good signs, we've seen him recognize pitches, we've seen him get to good pitches, we've seen his defense improve even over the course of the season. He would tell you he'd like to be producing more. But we're talking about a guy who missed a lot of time and is out there now facing good major league pitching on a regular basis, and maybe it's just a matter of a little further time to adjust to that. "We'll see," added Cherington. "We're optimistic about what he can do. Ultimately he knows and we all know that we're trying to win games, and at some point production matters. We're all working towards that." While the team's outfielders as a whole have not been particularly productive, there are outliers in the group who are performing much better as of late. Carp, who hit two doubles Wednesday night, is hitting .347 with three doubles, two RBIs and a .423 on-base percentage in his last eight games. Meanwhile, down I-95 at Pawtucket, Daniel Nava has reached base in each of the last 11 games, posting a .270/.378/.378 line in that time with a double, a homer, six walks and six strikeouts. This discussion within the Red Sox organization will lead to change if the group continues to struggle in all facets at the plate. "We're trying to find the right combination," Farrell said. "I will say this: We didn't roll over. We continued to battle back. There's some areas we're still trying to improve on."