WITH A SHORT supply of outfield production at the big-league level and a dearth of outfield depth in the minor leagues, the Phillies took a flyer yesterday on a former three-time All-Star.
The Phillies signed Grady Sizemore to a minor league deal. He'll report to Triple A Lehigh Valley tomorrow.
"I'd like to have more production in the outfield," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "It's pretty simple. If we think [he can provide it] after watching him play in Lehigh Valley, then we'll bring him."
Sizemore, who turns 32 in August, made three straight American League All-Star teams from 2006-08 while with the Cleveland Indians. From 2005 to 2008, Sizemore hit .281 with a .868 OPS, 107 home runs, 163 doubles, 32 triples and 115 stolen bases as the Indians' everyday centerfielder.
But before signing with the Boston Red Sox this winter, Sizemore hadn't played in a major league game since 2011 after battling numerous injury problems.
Sizemore has played in only 156 major league games in the last five seasons and underwent seven surgeries, three on his knees. Sizemore was released by the Red Sox last week after hitting .216 with a .612 OPS in 52 games.
"More than anything else, when you take that much time off, it takes a long time - much longer than people think - to get your feet back on the ground," Amaro said. "I know Boston gave him an opportunity to play. He had some level of success and then he did struggle at times. We'll see what he has in the tank. We believe in the athlete. We'll see what he has left."
Although there are questions about whether Sizemore, a former two-time Gold Glove winner, can still play centerfield, Amaro said he would play predominantly in center for the IronPigs. He'll also see some time in left, Amaro said.
According to reports, Sizemore's minor league deal includes an out clause in July.
But given the paltry production from the outfielders on the Phillies' major league roster, Sizemore should have a chance to jump from Lehigh Valley to Philadelphia in the coming weeks.
Manager Ryne Sandberg decided to give Domonic Brown "a little mental break" by keeping him out of his lineup last night.
A year ago, Brown had 19 home runs on June 24 and was a couple of weeks away from playing in his first All-Star Game. He entered last night hitting .218 with 17 extra-base hits (five home runs).
"Compared to last year, there's a little bit of an upward bat path through the zone [in his swing]," Sandberg said. "He's fouling off a lot of balls that he should be hitting that he hit last year, and it's a little bit of an upper-cut swing that's just been a habit that he's had, and he's been working on it and it's been a tough habit to break."
Brown (.596) and centerfielder Ben Revere (.615) had the third- and fifth-worst OPS, respectively, among the 60 major league outfielders who qualified heading into yesterday. And only Atlanta's B.J. Upton had struck out more times than Marlon Byrd (89 strikeouts) among major league outfielders.
There's also very little immediate help in the upper levels of the minor leagues.
The Phillies released two minor league outfielders in the last month - former first-round pick Anthony Hewitt and former prospect Tyson Gillies - and placed another, Darin Ruf, on the disabled list.
Sizemore was drafted by the Montreal Expos (third round, 2000) but went to Cleveland with Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Lee Stevens in a trade for Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew.
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