GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians and their fans remember the vintage days of Grady Sizemore: All-Star, Gold Glover, Silver Slugger, game-changer, face of the franchise.
Now, they just hope there's room left for Grady Sizemore, major-leaguer.
Though the Indians said he was around Tuesday, he was nowhere in sight. He was off getting his back checked out after another injury in a string that makes you wonder whether there are many days left in his career.
"He was one of the reasons I came here to manage," skipper Manny Acta said Tuesday. "I was like, 'Man, that guy is going to win some games all by himself. The excitement, when you have a guy like that."
Instead, while rehabbing his knee the other day following arthroscopic surgery this winter, Sizemore suffered a back injury and will be sidelined indefinitely. Then, in what has been a nightmarish first couple of days of camp, closer Chris Perez suffered an oblique strain. It's estimated he will be out for four-to-six weeks.
Suddenly, one of the few teams in the AL Central that at least has a chance to challenge Detroit already is playing from behind.
"Better to happen now than during the season," Perez said after his own day of rehab. "We're not missing any games yet.
"Me, personally, I'm just happy it's not my elbow or shoulder. It's just an oblique."
Perez predicts he'll be ready for Cleveland's April 5 opener against Toronto. Because he only pitches one inning at a time, the Indians think all he'll need is four or five appearances to be ready.
Whether or not that's overly optimistic, barring some other setback, the Indians should be able to count on Perez sooner rather than later this season.
They have not been able to count on Sizemore, whom they brought back on a one-year, $5 million deal this winter, since 2009. That's the last time he played in as many as 100 games (106).
Microfracture surgery on his left knee limited him to 33 games in 2010, and he made three different trips to the DL last season (both knees) in a 2011 season in which he played in only 71 games.
Quite a difference from 2005-2008, when he played in a total of 639 of Cleveland's 648 games. Given the wear and tear a player takes in center field, especially someone who plays it with the reckless abandon of Sizemore (think: Darin Erstad), you wonder if he's used up his nine lives.
Veteran Michael Brantley is the probable center fielder and lead-off hitter if Sizemore can't make it. But that leaves left field wide open for someone among a cast of several -- veterans Aaron Cunningham and Shelley Duncan, rookies Russ Canzler (the MVP of the Triple A International League last summer) and Thomas Neal. ...
One thing the Indians don't need is another season of pain. A year ago, they raced to a 30-15 start -- only to see that sabotaged in no small part by DL stints to key players. They used the DL 22 times, second-most in the AL. Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo were together in the same starting lineup for a total of just 17 games in 2011.
Less than a week into camp, already there are warning flares around Sizemore.
"You feel bad for the kid because he's dying to be out there," Acta said. "He's such a dynamic kid, such a big part of what we do.
"He doesn't seem to catch a break."
Sunblock Day? At your discretion. The wind storm blew through, and it cooled down to the low 60s.
Likes: Enjoyable evening Monday at Arizona State University's Cronkite School of Journalism, where a panel of us discussing spring training coverage. Really enjoyed meeting the kids, and some good questions. ... He was difficult to deal with as a player, but it was cool to see Albert Belle visit the Indians for the first time since he left Cleveland at the end of the 1996 season. Belle was a visitor at Tuesday's camp thanks to persistent recruiting from guest instructors (and former teammates) Carlos Baerga and Kenny Lofton. ... Killer stuff from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band on Jimmy Fallon's show Monday night. Wrecking Ball and We Take Care of Our Own were absolutely smokin'. ... The mesquite grilled shrimp burrito at Rubio's. Rarely do I stray from their fish tacos, but this was worth it. ... Good chicken enchiladas at Matador Mexican Restaurant in downtown Phoenix the other night, but no margaritas to go with 'em. They told us they had lost their liquor license a couple of days earlier. I'd recommend they figure out a way to get it back soon, because a Mexican place that does not serve margaritas soon will not be a Mexican place. It will be, I don't know, a flower shop.
Dislikes: Any school shooting is just inexplicable, and so it is with another, the one at Chardon (Ohio) High School on Monday. Indians owner Larry Dolan has extensive ties to that community and issued this statement: "On behalf of the Cleveland Indians baseball organization, and specifically the Dolan family whose roots are deep in the Chardon community, we offer our deepest sympathy to all involved in this senseless tragedy. We pray that the strength necessary to endure all the pain will come to the survivors. We hope for all of you peace and tranquility in due time."
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"The silicon chip inside her head
"Gets switched to overload
"And nobody's gonna go to school today
"She's going to make them stay at home
"And daddy doesn't understand it
"He always said she was as good as gold
"And he can see no reason
"'Cause there are no reasons
"What reason do you need to be shown?"
-- Boomtown Rats, I Don't Like Mondays