Mon Apr 18 10:26am EDT
But the Cleveland Indians were the surprise of baseball coming into Sunday with a 10-4 record and a share of first place in the AL Central. What kind of boost would the Tribe get from adding their three-time All-Star center fielder and face of the franchise to the lineup?
If Sunday's results are any indication, the Indians could get a big boost. Sizemore hit a home run in his second at-bat, batting 2 for 4 in Cleveland's 4-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles. The victory gave the Indians the best record in the American League and combined with the Royals' 3-2 loss to the Mariners, puts them in sole possession of first place in the AL Central.
Before the game, the question was whether or not Sizemore would take back the leadoff spot in the Tribe's batting order. Michael Brantley(notes) has been more than a suitable fill-in for Sizemore, batting .302 and providing good defense in center field. With his team playing so well, would manager Manny Acta risk upsetting the chemistry of the lineup? There was never a question in his mind.
"I have always dreamed," Acta said, "since I took this job, about seeing how he was when he was on top of his game."
As it turns out, Brantley has nothing to worry about. He wasn't in the lineup on Sunday, but Acta was just giving him the day off. With Sizemore back, Brantley will shift over to left field beginning Monday. Acta also said after the game that Sizemore won't be playing every day quite yet, so the reserve outfielders on the roster don't have to worry about their job status for now.
Sizemore hadn't taken the field for the Indians since May 16 of last year due to an injured left knee. He opted for microfracture surgery in June, thinking it would increase the chances for long-term health. Looking for a solution that would keep him on the field longer was understandable, as Sizemore was looking like a player whose body was breaking down after having his past two seasons cut short because of injury.
But the history of professional athletes coming back fully healthy from microfracture surgery hasn't been particularly encouraging. So questions were natural with Sizemore missing almost a full year of baseball. Returning to a first-place team and making an immediate contribution probably makes that knee feel even better now, however.