TAMPA -- In the surest sign yet that the Red Sox are preparing for at least the possibility of Grady Sizemore becoming their regular center fielder, manager John Farrell said Tuesday that they'll soon look to get Daniel Nava some playing time in center, giving them a backup option at the position behind the fragile Sizemore.
Jackie Bradley Jr. is the organization's other option in center but it's difficult to imagine both Bradley and Sizemore on the roster together, in part because the Sox don't want Bradley playing only occasionally at 23 years old, and in part because there doesn't appear room for them to both make the team.
Shane Victorino has won a Gold Glove in center field before, but the Sox want him to focus mostly on right field, which is the tougher position to play at Fenway. The Sox also want to limit the amount of shuttling between right and center for Victorino.
"We've had a couple of conversations,'' said Farrell, "but didn't want to get into anything. Before camp is out, we want to get [Victorino] some reps in center field, but he's aware that our intention is to keep him in right field as much as possible. He's fully on board with that. There might be a time in a given game where he might end up in center field if we've done something with a pinch-hit situation. I don't have an answer yet because it's based on how our final roster is going to look like.
"Shane's a baseball player. He's fully confident he can play both equally well. He's open to what we feel is best on a given day.''
Of the remaining outfielders slated to make the team who could play center field, Nava is the easy choice over Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp.
Farrell indicated the Sox will get Nava some playing time in center in the next few days.
"Honestly,'' he said, "I didn't want to rush into that because the speculation that is driven from that. We have to look at a different set of combinations based on what our roster's going to look like.''
Indeed, reality is dictating the Sox' moves. Sizemore has been impressive with his play, and his body has rebounded faster than anyone could anticipate.
But the Sox understand Sizemore still has his limitations. Even if wins the starting job outright, it's not reasonable for him to play six times a week. Thus, the Sox need a backup plan beyond the temptation of merely shifting Victorino over.
Nava played exactly one game, for eight innings, in center last season, but that's the extent of his experience there.
Nava has made a dramatic defensive improvement in left over the last few years and is athletic enough to play 69 games in right (more than he did in left) a year ago, mostly filling in while Victorino battled a succession of nagging injuries.
If the Sox were comfortable enough with Nava to play him, say, twice a week in center, that would allow them to protect Sizemore's body while buying more development time at Pawtucket for Bradley.