In their defense ... John Farrell on Jackie Bradley and Grady Sizemore in center field

March 26, 2014 - 8:08 am

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- While most of the focus in the spring training competition between Jackie Bradley Jr. and Grady Sizemore has focused on the offense of the two players, run prevention and defense will also necessarily play into the equation when the Red Sox make their ultimate decision on their Opening Day center fielder.

Sizemore was once a Gold Glove center fielder in 2007 and 2008. While he still shows good instincts and has run routes well at the position, his range -- following years of knee surgeries -- no longer matches what he once presented. Still, Sox manager John Farrell suggested that his performance with the glove has been "as expected. He'€™s made some plays that have been well above average. He'€™s certainly covered the ground without issue, with the opportunities to date. So far, he'€™s looked fine."

Farrell characterized Sizemore's arm as "average for a center fielder."

Prior to spring training, the Sox were unsure of whether Sizemore would indeed look as good as he has in center. Farrell raised the possibility at the start of spring training that Sizemore would see time in left field. That hasn't happened given his comfort in center, and the fact that the roster decision involving Sizemore will relate to whether or not he or Bradley is the center fielder, with the other heading to the minors. Given that Sizemore and Bradley are viewed as the only true center fielders on the roster, they aren't expected to be moved to the corners if playing in the big leagues. (The only scenario that would result in either playing a corner would be if both were on the roster at the same time, a scenario that the Sox do not currently envision.)

"I think it became pretty clear [the roster decision] was going to have to be either/or," said Farrell. "Once we got to that point, we stayed focused on center field [with Sizemore]."

While Sizemore has looked solid defensively in center, however, it's apparent that Bradley is in a class of his own. The 23-year-old has won a reputation as one of the best instinctual center fielders in professional baseball, someone who can contend for the sort of defensive accolades that Sizemore used to garner. "I think if you start to compare the two of them head up, Jackie'€™s got a little bit better throwing arm; Jackie to me has probably got some of the best jumps and reads in the game, not just in our camp," said Farrell. "He'€™s a very, very good defender."