FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After serving as the feel-good story of Spring Training last year, Jackie Bradley Jr. comes to camp this time around determined to become the starting center fielder for the Red Sox on Opening Day.
To earn that job, he will have to beat out Grady Sizemore, a former All-Star who is on the comeback trail after not playing in the Majors the last two seasons.
"Yeah, it's different going into it knowing you are competing for a spot," Bradley said. "Last year I came into it just here trying to learn and seeing what I could get out of it."
For a while over the winter, it seemed like the job was all Bradley's. Jacoby Ellsbury left for the Yankees, and the Red Sox didn't sign a replacement for weeks after that.
But in late January, Sizemore was still without a job, and he wound up signing an incentive-laden deal with the Red Sox.
Bradley didn't expect anything to be handed to him.
"Yeah, I mean, competition in general is very beneficial," Bradley said. "When you're competing, that brings the best out of all players. That's what we do; we compete and we enjoy competing."
Bradley was the hottest hitter the Red Sox had in Grapefruit League competition last year and won a roster spot out of camp, but he was quickly humbled by Major League pitching. He spent most of the year at Triple-A Pawtucket, which was expected anyway.
This time around, Bradley hopes to be ready for the highest level of competition.
"I'm very excited," said Bradley. "Opportunities don't really come often, so you want to make sure you take full advantage of them. I don't feel any pressure. I'm not replacing Jacoby. I'm just going to be myself, enjoy it and have fun."
As for Sizemore, he has also been working out at the Player Development Complex this week, even though position players aren't due to report until Tuesday.
At this point, there's not much the Red Sox can do when it comes to evaluating Sizemore's readiness.
"I've seen him in the early workouts. He's moving well," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "We'll probably reserve any kind of evaluation on him until we get into games and see how he tolerates the volume and what kind of recovery time he's going to need. But still, this is a guy who hasn't been in any game action for a couple years. So we have to be open minded to the needs he's going to have and really the repetition against game speed to get a more accurate read."
Bogaerts focused on short with Drew unsigned
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- At some point, Stephen Drew will sign with the Red Sox or somebody else and the uncertainty can stop.
But Red Sox manager John Farrell doesn't want it to distract Xander Bogaerts, who will be Boston's starting shortstop assuming Drew doesn't return.
"I can tell you the conversations with Xander to date have been to focus on shortstop," Farrell said. "If that needs to be adjusted we'll address it at that time, but we're moving forward with the players that are here. That's probably the short answer I can give you."
If Drew's uncertain status drags on much longer, Farrell sounds as if the Red Sox might just move on from him and bring closure to the situation.
"Oh, yeah, I think the one thing that we don't want is a lingering what-if if Stephen is still out there," Farrell said. "I think in all fairness to our guys, our clubhouse, guys that would be affected if he were to be brought in, certainly I can't speak for [general manager] Ben [Cherington] in this situation, but I think the more that we know what our team is going to look like, or at least those guys in our clubhouse, it probably settles some of that wondering if another player is going to join us."
If Drew did return, Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks would likely be in competition to be the starting third baseman.
Pierzynski believes collisions are part of catching
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Major League Baseball is working on a rule to eliminate collisions at home plate as a way to protect catchers. That said, new Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski isn't a fan of the new rule, which could go into effect this season.
"Since we don't want anybody to touch anybody, I think we should just have two home plates, and if the other guy gets to home plate first, maybe the umpire can pull it out of his pocket and unfold it and lay it down," Pierzynski said in jest. "I don't know. I haven't seen the finalized rule, but I think it's silly. I think I've been run over probably more times than anyone in baseball. I've always seemed to luckily get up from them. I'm a firm believer that if you do it right and you're in the right position and it's a clean play, then you should be OK.
"I'm all for runners not going out of their way to hit guys, but at the same time, it's part of the game. When you got signed up to be a Major League catcher, there's things that come with it -- balls in the dirt, foul tips and getting run over on close plays at the plate."
David Ross, Boston's backup catcher, sustained two concussions last season, but not on collisions. In fact, Ross trucked over Tigers catcher Alex Avila in a memorable crash during Game 5 of last year's American League Championship Series.
He sounds much more open-minded to the rule modification than Pierzynski.
"The first thing is, I don't like to get run over -- let's be honest," said Ross. "I'm anxious to see how that plays out. We're going to get some more coaching on that as far as what the rule actually says, what we can and can't do. I'm anxious to see how it plays out. It's going to be toughest on the umpires more than anything."
Nava, Victorino could share leadoff duties
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For the better part of the last six seasons, Jacoby Ellsbury batted first for the Red Sox whenever he was healthy. Don't expect that same stability in the top spot in Boston's 2014 batting order.
Daniel Nava and Shane Victorino project as the two players who will spend the most time in that spot, but manager John Farrell is open to tinkering with that spot as needed.
"I think they're the two candidates that quickly come to mind," said Farrell. "But we started last year with a certain lineup. Things evolved. I fully expect that to take place again this year."
It could well be that Nava winds up leading off against righties while Victorino gets the nod against lefties.
"I wouldn't be reluctant to go back and forth as long as those two, Daniel and Shane, were well aware of it and being able to anticipate being in the lineup," said Farrell. "It's all about communicating to them and letting them know what our initial thoughts are. Guys will perform their way into … you know, players will tell you what the lineup should be based on their performance. I don't see that being any different this year. But initially, those are the two candidates."
• Red Sox pitchers and catchers will all undergo physicals on Sunday morning. The team's first workout of Spring Training will be on Monday. The physicals will help Boston's medical staff get a better handle on right-hander Jake Peavy, who had his right ring finger heavily taped on Friday. Peavy said on Saturday that he thinks it is just a day-to-day ailment.
• Pierzynski is no stranger to Fort Myers, having spent many Spring Trainings here during his time with the Twins.
"It's a little different than when I was last here. It's been a while, but it's grown up a little bit," Pierzynski said. "I know I joked when I drove down, man, I don't recognize anything. It's been 11 years since I've been down here. It's nice to see the Red Sox got a nice new park, because that old one had run its course."
• Ross used to think he could be relatively anonymous as a backup catcher. But when you win the World Series and you play for the Boston Red Sox, life changes.
"A lot of attention -- more so than I ever thought I would get. It was fun at first, and then it got to be a little much for me. Being a backup catcher, I signed up for a lot of things, had a lot of great opportunities, but toward the end it was, 'OK, I'm tired of this.' That's why I'm so excited to get back here, to get back in a normal routine," Ross said. "Not that I ever mind that, and the autographs and signings and all that's great. I love it and would never say anything bad about it, but I'm glad to be back and be the backup catcher and the guy who stays under the radar. That's more my angle."