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03/20/11 8:33 PM ET

Sizemore takes it slow, easy in his return

Indians star slated to play three innings vs. D-backs on Tuesday

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- A journey of a thousand swings begins with just one and Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore began that excursion on Sunday in his return from last June's microfracture surgery on his left knee.

The lefty-swinging Sizemore faced five pitches from old friend Armando Galarraga and swung at two of them during the first two innings of Cleveland's 5-3 victory over a D-backs split-squad mostly made up of Minor Leaguers at Goodyear Ballpark.

The designated and leadoff hitter, Sizemore bounced out to second base to open the first and flied to center to end the second. And that was the end of his day. He's slated to start in center and play three innings against the D-backs on Tuesday at Salt River Fields.

"I felt fine," Sizemore said. "Right now, I'm at the tail end of a long rehab. What I'm focused on is getting back on the field and getting ready for the season."

When that debut will be is anybody's guess. The Tribe opens at Progressive Field on April 1 against the White Sox, but Indians manager Manny Acta said unequivocally after the game that Sizemore won't be with the club.

Sizemore missed 129 games last year because of the injury and 56 more in 2009 because of surgery on his elbow and groin. He went on the disabled list for good this past May 19 and had the surgery on June 4 in Vail, Colo., performed by renowned orthopedic surgeon Richard Steadman. Right now, he's just happy to be back.

"I loved to be back on the field, back in the dugout with the guys," Sizemore said. "It's been so long. I wasn't sure how I was going to feel, but it was just fun to be out there and be part of the game."

Sizemore originally injured his knee while over-sliding second base against the Dodgers during an exhibition game in Los Angeles this past April 1. He then aggravated it, sliding back into first base in a game against the Orioles on May 16.

During the 90-minute microfracture procedure, loose or damaged cartilage was removed and tiny holes drilled in the joint. Blood from those holes formed what is akin to scabs, replacing the missing cartilage.

It took almost 10 months for Sizemore to go through the rehab process, get back on the field and feel no pain. Thus, there's no reason to rush it, Acta said.

"There's not enough [time left in Spring Training] to have him on the Opening Day roster," Acta said. "He'll probably stay here in extended Spring Training at the beginning. Then we'll see what the weather is like in any of our Minor League cities and make a decision where he will go next."

The 28-year-old is known for his all-out hustle, diving for balls and crashing into walls to make catches. And at one time he was also known for his endurance. Before injuries abbreviated his 2009 season, Sizemore played in at least 157 games in each of the previous four seasons, logging 382 consecutive games from 2005-08.

But on Sunday there was no need to exert himself or even break a sweat.

"It was good to see him run effortlessly," Acta said. "If you didn't know what he'd been through you would've never guessed. He ran very well even though he didn't get any hits. It was a start."

Sizemore came to the plate to the raucous cheers of 4,058 in the first inning. He didn't give himself much of chance, hitting a 1-1 pitch from Galarraga during that at bat and 1-0 pitch an inning later.

"I threw a lot of sinkers to him," said Galarraga, who tossed the disputed non-perfect game against the Indians last season as a member of the Tigers. "He's a good hitter. He needs to pick it up. It's hard when you're out for so many months and right away you have to swing the bat."

Sizemore said there are no restrictions regarding what he can do on a baseball field. He's wearing a pad to protect the left knee and passed his final test doing sliding exercises late this past week. If he has to slide in hard at second base to break up a double play then that's what he will do.

He figures to play every other day now, switching from the field to DH, but even he isn't sure where he'll be on Opening Day.

"For now we're just trying to get through the first couple of games and see how it feels," he said. "I don't know where I'm going to be, where the games are going to be at, how many innings I get in down here. We're not looking that far ahead right now."

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.