Grady Sizemore discusses his comeback on Hot Stove

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Roughly 48 hours from playing in his first organized baseball game since Sept. 22, 2011, this is what Grady Sizemore had to say about his progress this spring.

"Definitely better than expected," Sizemore said. "I didn't expect to come in here and have continuous days without any issues and be able to keep pushing it and keep upping the volume and going from there."

When the Red Sox play their first exhibition game of Spring Training on Thursday afternoon against Northeastern University, Sizemore will be in the starting lineup.

This was the type of game that used to be nothing more than a tune-up for Sizemore back in his days as a superstar for the Cleveland Indians.

But things are different now. Sizemore had the game taken away from him for too long, and he badly wants to get it back.

Thursday marks the first significant step.

"It's an exciting day for me," Sizemore said. "Just being back out there, I'm excited. I can't wait to get there. Obviously I'm not expecting too much. I'm just trying to go out there and have a good game and get the feel back, get my timing back, and I'm just really excited to get back out there."

If Sizemore continues to take steps forward, he will eventually focus on a battle with Jackie Bradley Jr. to be Boston's starting center fielder.

Right now, he needs to take every step necessary to make sure he stays healthy enough to compete.

"Obviously I want to go out there and prove to them that I can play," Sizemore said. "But I'm not trying to do that all in one game. I'm just going to go out there and try to get my feet underneath me, get some looks and hopefully just get some action out there and see what it's like to play and get a feel for it."

Though Sizemore has made more comeback attempts than he cares to remember, he truly feels this one is different, and that his body could finally be ready to withstand the rigors again of being a Major League player.

"There's definitely no doubts," Sizemore said. "I feel good, I feel strong. I think it's just a matter of being smart and not trying to do too much."

He is confident the Red Sox won't let him do too much.

"Oh, absolutely," Sizemore said. "There's not a day that I don't have long discussions with them about how I feel and how things are going. I'm getting evaluated every day. Whether it's out on field with the coaches or in the training room with the medical staff, they're keeping a close eye on me."

Ambitious Bradley has goals in his sights

Outlook: Bradley Jr. capable of solid production

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In his second Major League Spring Training, one in which he hopes to solidify himself as a full-time center fielder for the Red Sox, Jackie Bradley Jr. has outlined some clear goals for himself.

"Bunting, sacrifice bunting, stealing bases and being consistent at the plate," Bradley said. "And make a lot of Top 10 plays."

There aren't many players out there who are more competitive about defense than Bradley. And don't be surprised if he keeps a running tally of how many "Top 10" plays he can make.

"I always used to watch the Top 10 plays and try to emulate those guys," Bradley said. "Instead of doing that one play, I always wanted to make it back to back. That was incorporated into my shagging abilities before games to prepare."

Though Bradley isn't going to steal 70 bases in a season like former Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, he is determined to be a threat on the bases.

Bradley stole 24 bases in the Minors in 2012.

"He was really fast," Bradley said of Ellsbury. "He had that God-given ability, strength of speed, so to speak. I'm more of an instinctual guy, picking my right times and being able to execute. Knowing pitchers and catchers that you can steal off of and not really [pushing] the envelope [is key]."

Red Sox have Victorino on conservative program

Outlook: Speedy Victorino looks to impress in 2014

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Nobody played harder for the Red Sox last year than Shane Victorino. There was also nobody who had more nagging injuries.

With that in mind, the club is trying to pick its spots with Victorino in Spring Training to give him a better chance at holding up throughout the long season.

Coming off right thumb surgery, Victorino won't be ready to play when exhibition games start on Thursday. But he should be a full go by March 31, when the Red Sox open their season against the Orioles.

"He went through two really good days of work," said manager John Farrell. "He's coming out of swinging the bat off the tee, soft toss and some late BP. We felt there were some other things we needed to address, just from core strengthening, and he's going through that right now. We don't have a date right now where he would be in games. There's some other work that we've got to take care of first."

When Farrell says "other work," he means beyond the recovery of Victorino's thumb.

"This is not related to the hand. He feels good there," said Farrell. "He came out today and ran for about 12 minutes. Ran the bases some. He threw. We just feel like there's more base and foundation that we can build physically before ramping up the work. We just felt like there were more specific needs we wanted to address before they might flare up as we experienced a year ago."