Grady Sizemore will start the season in a familiar spot — on the disabled list.
The oft-injured Cleveland Indians outfielder is expected to miss eight to 12 weeks with a back injury, the latest medical setback for a three-time All-Star who once appeared to have a sensational career ahead of him.
The team said Sizemore underwent a "minimally invasive" lower back procedure Thursday in Miami. He required a micro discectomy that was performed by Dr. Barth Green of the University of Miami School of Medicine.
"Grady's obviously frustrated," general manager Chris Antonetti said in comments posted on MLB.com. "He wants more than anything to be out on the field contributing and helping the team win. This is a setback in his timetable for doing that, but I think he understands that, if he sees this process through and doesn't have setbacks along the way, he can still contribute for the majority of the season."
Sizemore, who re-signed with the Indians in the offseason, will return to spring training in Arizona "in the coming days" to further his rehabilitation, the club said.
"It will be an extensive rehab process," Antonetti said. "But we still are hopeful we will get him back for the bulk of the season."
Sizemore was limited to 71 games last year, hitting .224 with 10 home runs, 32 RBIs and 34 runs scored. Hoping to bounce back with a healthy season, he was injured while fielding ground balls early in spring training.
Before that, Indians trainer Lonnie Soloff said Sizemore had been doing well in his rehab from knee surgery and appeared on track to possibly begin the season on time.
"I feel bad for him," manager Manny Acta said. "Obviously, it seems like he can't catch a break over the last couple of years."
Cleveland re-signed Sizemore as a free agent in November after choosing not to exercise a $9 million option on him. But the Indians, perhaps out of some loyalty to Sizemore, decided to bring him back with a one-year, $5 million contract loaded with incentives that could have earned him an additional $4 million.
Sizemore has undergone five operations the past two years and played in only 210 games the last three seasons because of injuries. His full-speed-ahead style may have caught up with the 29-year-old, who once played in 382 consecutive games and endeared himself to Cleveland fans with hustle that could turn a double into a triple or save an extra-base hit with a crash into the outfield wall to make a catch.
Sizemore also started last season on the disabled list. He made three trips to the DL and underwent right knee surgery on Oct. 3, just days after his season ended without a stolen base for the first time in his career.
"There's going to be plenty of at-bats to have out there," Acta said. "You might not have seen it as a big deal during the offseason, but now it looks pretty big when you have a full bag of guys like that who have been in the big leagues the last few years and have experience."
The Indians, ravaged by injuries last season, have 12 other outfielders in camp. Cleveland opened last season 30-15 and played well in long stretches without Sizemore so there's reason to believe it can compete again.
"Our scouts will continue to be out there evaluating other camps," Antonetti said. "We're always looking for ways to improve the roster, but we feel good about some of the guys that we already have in camp, and we're looking forward to seeing some of them compete.
"But, part of our responsibility is to make sure we understand who the alternatives are and if we have an opportunity to acquire them, and improve our roster, we'll certainly look to do that."