CHRIS CARLSON / ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
CLEVELAND — Grady Sizemore is ready and raring to play.
Now, it's up to the Cleveland Indians when that happens.
Sizemore could be activated from the disabled list in the next two days and return to the lineup after being sidelined for nearly a year after having microfracture surgery on his left knee. Indians manager Manny Acta would not give a specific day on when Sizemore will officially be back.
This much is known. It's real close.
"I can't rule out anything," Acta said Saturday before the Indians played the Orioles. "We don't know when, but it's going to be soon."
Sizemore hasn't played in the majors since last May 16, when he injured the knee sliding back to first base in Baltimore. Three days later, he went on the disabled list, and on June 4 he had season-ending surgery that threatened his career.
The climb back has been excruciating for Sizemore, who hasn't been able to play a full season since 2008. The months of grueling rehab and recovery are nearly complete, and now that it's nearly finished, Sizemore can't wait for it to finally be over.
"It's been tough because it's been so long," Sizemore said. "But we've been patient this whole way and I understand the need not to rush things when we get down to the final couple days. I feel good. That's the most important thing."
The Indians' plan was to have Sizemore go through another full workout for the club's training staff before they make their next move with the three-time All-Star. He has been testing his knee in the minor leagues, most recently with Triple-A Columbus.
Sizemore hasn't had any setbacks as he has gradually increased his workload. He's running, cutting and sliding — all without pain.
"The knee has been really consistent the last month or so," Sizemore said. "With more games played and back-to-back games and getting more work in the outfield, it seems to be consistent with how it feels the next day or after a game or after a day off.
"It's holding steady right now, which is good."
Sizemore's return will force the Indians to make a roster move. The most likely candidate is Travis Buck, whose batting .143 and has a minor league option remaining.
Once he's officially back, Sizemore will undoubtedly resume playing center field and batting leadoff. That means Michael Brantley will have to move to left field and drop in the order. Brantley is off to a strong start, batting .333 with a .400 on-base percentage in 13 games.
Sizemore said he doesn't care where he hits.
"It's tough because the team is swinging real well right now," he said. "Manny knows I'm good with whatever, whether it's leadoff or anywhere else. They're going to sit down and figure out what's best for the team."
Sizemore expects the Indians to slowly build up his work load.
"I think they'll be very, very careful," he said. "I don't imagine I'm going to go out there and play seven games in seven days the first week. I don't see them throwing me out there six or seven days in a row. I think they're going to take it easy on me."
Sizemore anticipates playing two or three days in a row and the Indians using off days to get him more down time until he gets stronger.
At 9-4, the Indians are off to their best start since 2002 and tied for first with Kansas City in the AL Central. The team's playing well, and Acta believes the Indians can only benefit by Sizemore's return.
"Regardless of what type of lineup you have," Acta said, "when you add Grady Sizemore to any lineup, any team in America, you're adding to it. Is that an understatement?"