ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- Grady Sizemore stepped to the plate, settled into his stance, as the three-time American League All-Star has done thousands of times before. After taking two strikes, he calmly lined a clean single to left.
What made this at-bat noteworthy was that it was the first for the 31-year-old since he was released by the Red Sox on June 18. Six days later, he signed a Minor League contract with the Phillies and headed to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. On Friday night, he made his IronPigs debut, starting in center field and leading off at Coca-Cola Park against the Rochester Red Wings.
Surely some will draw a quick connection between the outfield problems the parent Phillies are having at the big league level and the signing of a player who was once considered one of the best and brightest.
That, of course, was before Sizemore missed the entire 2012 season following surgery to repair a damaged disc in his lower back, then all of 2013 recovering from micro-fracture surgery on his right knee. Before he played his way onto the Red Sox roster by playing so well in the Grapefruit League. Before he batted .343 in his first 10 games of the regular season. Before he batted .187 in the next 42 games and was cut loose.
For the time being, then, Sizemore's goals are modest. To play every day. To stay healthy. To produce. These were his first live at-bats in almost two weeks.
"It was good. Overall it was good just to be back on the field and start playing and get back in the swing of things," he said. "My body felt fine. Just a little rusty and obviously a little stiff. I'm not in a position where I can take that many days off and come back and feel great.
"Going through what I've gone through, I have to be out there every day kind of pushing it and going through full-speed game activity. So it's going to be a couple days before I get my legs back under me and feel normal again."
The Phillies haven't told him what their plans are for him.
"Not yet. It's still early," he said. "I think they kind of want to watch me and see what it looks like. So I just want to get out there as much as I can, give them a look and see where we're at."
For their part, the Phillies will watch, wait, evaluate. Their investment is minimal: $17,500 per month while he's at Triple-A, a prorated portion of the Major League minimum $500,000 if he's promoted. The only deadline is that, if Sizemore is still with the Pigs on July 15 he can request his release and become a free agent unless the Phillies bring him to the big leagues within 48 hours.
After his first-inning single on Friday, he advanced to second on an infield out and scored on a two-out single to center. In subsequent at-bats, he flied out to the warning track in left, grounded out to second and flied out to the warning track in center. Both of the long drives might have been home runs at Citizens Bank Park.
"He had very good at-bats," said IronPigs manager Dave Brundage. "Didn't look rusty at all, stepped in and had very good, competitive at-bats."
In the top of the sixth, Sizemore made a nice diving catch of a sinking line drive by Rochester second baseman James Beresford. "Overall I liked the whole thing. Not just him diving for the ball. The way he moved around. The way he went about his business. Everything looked good. Everything looked great to me," Brundage added.
Sizemore said results are important, but it's important that he just plays the game as well as he can. "You want results but you want to look at the whole process, too. It's just trying to stay healthy and get back and compete at a high level. That's what it's about. I'm not so worried about the numbers aspect, but results as far as just being able to play and produce. Have good at bats, play well in the field, that kind of thing," he said.
"I'm always looking to improve. As good as things went, I think I can get better. It's just a matter of getting good jumps and building off that and trying to do more."
It was a first step. The next will come Saturday night against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. And if enough of those steps lead to Philadelphia, he'd welcome that challenge, too.
"It's obviously an intense place and a good city to play in," he said. "I've never been there, I've never played there. But I hear the fans are into it and coming from [Boston] you'd be excited to be a part of that."
Veteran right-hander Jason Marquis allowed just one run on three hits in six-plus innings on Friday night in his first start for the IronPigs and just his second since undergoing Tommy John surgery on July 30, 2013. Marquis, 35, threw 85 pitches and retired 10 straight Red Wings at one point. He struck out six, walked one and hit a batter. He was signed as a free agent on June 3 and pitched five shutout innings for the Gulf Coast League Phillies on June 21.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.