GOODYEAR, Ariz. – Grady Sizemore's goal is to be in center field on opening day. The Cleveland Indians have accepted that might not be possible.
General manager Chris Antonetti said Tuesday that he's not expecting Sizemore, the three-time All-Star who underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee last June, to be ready when the Indians open their season at home on April 1 against the Chicago White Sox.
"It's still a possibility," Antonetti said. "But I'd say it's less likely than more likely that he'll be ready for the start of the season. We're still hopeful it will still be near the start of the season. Whether that's a few days or a few weeks, we just don't know yet."
Sizemore played in just 33 games last season before needing surgery. He originally injured his knee in an exhibition game, and re-aggravated it while sliding back into a base on May 16 in Baltimore. He had the season-ending operation on June 4 in Vail, Colo.
The 28-year-old has been limited in training camp as he recovers, and while the Indians have been encouraged by his progress, Antonetti said Sizemore has a few more hurdles to clear.
"There's a number of things he needs to do in terms of changing direction, both in outfield drills and running the bases, that he needs to accomplish before he's cleared to play."
Initially, the Indians thought Sizemore would be able to play in games by the second week in March. That no longer seems possible.
Sizemore has been taking batting practice, throwing and taking part in some agility drills. However, he's only running at half-speed and hasn't been able to test his knee by cutting on it. The Indians are keeping a close eye on Sizemore's progress. They want him to stick to his program and not rush getting back.
"We've been really encouraged in what we've seen and how he's felt throughout the process," Antonetti said. "His batting practice has been as good or better than it's been at any point. He's used the whole field. He hit a couple of balls out of the ballpark the opposite way the other day. That shows that his legs are underneath him.
"I's just a question of when he'll get to that point from a running standpoint that he'll be able to fully participate."
If Sizemore can't break camp with the Indians, he could stay behind for extended spring training in Arizona or report to one of the club's minor league affiliates.
Coming off a 93-loss season, the Indians need Sizemore in their everyday lineup to have any chance of contending. Known for his all-out hustle, Sizemore is one of the game's top leadoff hitters. He has exceptional range in the outfield, allowing pitchers to get away with an occasional mistake knowing Sizemore can run it down in the gap.
Michael Brantley would likely take Sizemore's starting spot in center until he's ready.
One of two players in Cleveland history with 30 homers and 30 steals in the same season, Sizemore has been breaking down in recent years. During a span from 2006-08, he played in 381 of a possible 386 games. But in 2009, he made his first trip to the disabled list and played in 106 games.
Last season ended almost as soon as it started for him.
Antonetti, though, remains confident Sizemore can be himself again.
"We haven't changed our expectations about what's possible," he said. "I know Grady hasn't. He's looking forward to coming back and feeling like he did before. And based on the way he's feeling now, from a fundamental perspective with his swing, he says his swing feels better than it has over the last few years.
"Hopefully he maintains that and he'll be able to come back and be the guy that we have grown to know over the last few years."