Sizemore will play in Thursday exhibition

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Shortly after Grady Sizemore said he didn’t think he would be immediately ready to play when exhibition games begin later this week, Red Sox manager John Farrell said the outfielder would be in the lineup in Thursday afternoon’s exhibition against Northeastern.

The Red Sox kick off their spring slate with the annual doubleheader against Northeastern and Boston College on Thursday at JetBlue Park. Boston's first Grapefruit League game comes Friday against the Minnesota Twins.

On Monday morning, Sizemore suggested he might not be playing in games right off the bat.

“It’s only been a week. I’ve been here two, but it’s only been one full week of this kind of workout,” Sizemore said. “Personally, I want to make sure my legs are in good shape, good condition. It’s one of those things where, yeah, we could go out there and maybe play games for a week, [but] is that going to put me at more risk to break down?

“It’s one of those things, I’ll talk to the medical staff when the games start, but right now we’re just trying to get through these first two, three weeks.’’

Sizemore, 31, is trying to come back from long odds, having undergone seven surgeries since the end of the 2009 season, including microfracture surgery on both knees that required extremely grueling rehabs both times (eight hours of being connected to a passive motion machine every day for eight weeks, a protocol he repeated for each knee). He hasn’t played in a game in two full seasons, his last action coming in spring training with the Indians in 2012, when he lasted just a couple of weeks and required both back and knee surgery.

So far, he has been pleased with his progress, but he’s been down this road before.

“The first week or two have been good,’’ he said. “I’ve been able to string days together and slowly increase the volume and intensity, which is kind of what we were hoping for. Obviously, I want to come in and not feel the effects of the day before, but I also want to be able to string days together, slowly increase [the workload] and not have any reaction. So far, we haven’t had any of that, so it’s good.’’

There also is the simple pleasure of being on the field again.

“Everything’s been exciting, being out there,’’ he said. “From shagging to coaches’ BP to live BP. I’ve looked forward to everything.

“It’s not like it’s all fresh, but when you haven’t been able to do it for years, you look forward to the little things. All the things you normally don’t think about, you end up missing. Every day is something new for me, whether it’s outfield drills or live BP or baserunning. You get to play a game you missed for so long.’’

And the texts and messages of encouragement, which came in abundance when he first signed with the Red Sox, continue to head his way.

“Now guys are checking in to see how I’m feeling,’’ he said. “It’s one of those things, you feel good when people say we’re rooting for you, we’re in your corner. I’ve been fortunate enough to play this game a long time and met a lot of great people and made a lot of good friends.’’