Sliding remains last frontier in Sizemore's rehab

Sliding remains last frontier in Sizemore's rehab

Sliding remains last frontier in Sizemore's rehab
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- With beads of sweat collecting on his forehead, Grady Sizemore stood under a blazing Arizona sun, discussing his latest trip to a half diamond for a baserunning workout at the Indians' spring complex.

It was the second time this week that Cleveland's recovering center fielder ran the bases, pushing his surgically-repaired left knee to the limits. Sizemore has one baserunning workout to go -- sliding being the biggest obstacle left in his rehab -- before potentially being cleared for playing in a game this weekend.

"Everything's good," said Sizemore, still catching his breath.

Following the Tribe's morning workout as a team, Sizemore retreated to a field in the back of the player-development complex for his solo work in front of the club's medical staff. Sizemore's last baserunning session was on Sunday, and he appeared to increase the intensity some on Tuesday.

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Sizemore did three sets around the bases, with a handful of timed breaks between each exercise. He simulated a single, a double, and then scoring from second base. Each time, Sizemore sprinted hard, showing that he is willing and capable of running at full strength on his left knee.

Sliding will be the final test for Sizemore.

"I've run the bases now," he said. "I've taken outfield, infield, all that stuff. That's probably the last piece."

As Sizemore spoke, it was obvious that he had some trepidation about sliding. It is not hard to understand why, though. Sizemore originally injured his knee while over-sliding second base against the Dodgers on April 1 last season. He then aggravated the injury when sliding back into first base in a game against the Orioles on May 16.

In June, Sizemore flew to Vail, Colo., where Dr. Richard Steadman performed microfracture surgery on his knee.

Sizemore said the Indians have cushioned mats that he could slide on, but he knows that the club's medical staff is going to want to see how he responds to running and sliding on a dirt infield. If Sizemore is going to play in games, that is a test he needs to pass.

"It's probably the last thing we're going to try out," Sizemore said. "Obviously, it's a little bit of a concern -- since that's how I hurt it, and the fact that it's the leg that I'll be landing on. We'll want to do what we can to protect that in any way we can."

Sizemore, 28, noted that his rehab timeline has not changed. He indicated that he will likely have his next baserunning workout on Thursday, but it could be pushed to Friday if he needs an extra day of rest. As for games, Sizemore said he hopes to make his debut on Saturday or Sunday -- or by Monday at the latest.

Indians manager Manny Acta said Sunday was the most likely scenario.

"If everything goes well," Acta said, "and it's going well, there is a chance that he starts on [Sunday] to participate in games. It's pretty impressive. I saw him today work in the fundamentals -- doing cut-offs and relays, chasing balls around. Then, shagging during batting practice, he was chasing fly balls like nothing back there. It's very encouraging."

Sizemore's running program has mainly consisted of workouts on an every-other-day basis. The center fielder noted that he has felt fine on his days off from the high-intensity-running workouts.

"I don't feel any different on those days than I do any other day," Sizemore said. "I would say every day I come in feeling the same. We're still doing some agility work on those days, and some outfield work. I feel fine. There are no issues, there."

Sizemore -- a three-time American League All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner -- added that he has felt great up to this point in the batter's box. One American League scout offered a different opinion, noting that Sizemore has not been using his legs during his swing as well as he has in the past.

One thing that is clear, though, is Sizemore is feeling much better at the plate than he did early on last season. Following the initial knee injury in April last year, Sizemore said he had nagging discomfort when trying to swing. A main issue was putting weight on his back leg.

That has not been a problem for him this spring.

"It feels good," Sizemore said. "I don't notice it at all hitting, right now. Everything's been good. I don't have any issues now. We'll see how it feels in a game, getting four or five at-bats, but I don't imagine anything different. I've been hitting for a long time now, and it's been pretty consistent and, symptom-wise, I feel relatively pain-free.

"Last year, it was pretty painful. There was a little bit of discomfort there. I'd try to get in there and get in the stance, and just overall -- hitting, putting weight on it, turning on that back knee -- it was a lot harder last year."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.