CEDAR RAPIDS – How surreal this must have been.
Monday was the true opening day for Major League Baseball, with wall-to-wall games from noon through night. Instead of being in Yankee Stadium or some other palacial ballpark, Ryan Sweeney was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, doing some things with his father, Gary, and taking only a casual glance or two at the television to see what was going on.
“This was the first time I’ve been home for Easter in 11 years,” the Xavier High School graduate mused. “Definitely weird.”
Definitely not the game plan Sweeney had for this season. The Boston Red Sox declined to offer the outfielder a major league contract last week and gave him a requested release over the weekend.
So he sits at home for what likely won’t be very long, awaiting his next opportunity. Sweeney said his agent, Larry Reynolds, has told him four teams are interested, though he wouldn’t divulge which ones.
The Triple-A season begins Thursday, so a decision (and destination) will come soon. He didn’t want this to happen, but it’s certain he’ll head back to the minors, for at least a bit.
“I haven’t been in Triple-A since 2006,” Sweeney said. “I don’t feel like I’m a Triple-A player.”
Sweeney, 28, is a .280 hitter in 1,900 career MLB at-bats. He has played with the Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics and Red Sox in his 535 big-league games.
He spent an injury riddled 2012 season with Boston and signed a minor-league deal with the club late in the offseason, only to be beaten out by ballyhooed prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mike Carp for two available roster spots. Bradley went 0-for-2 with three walks in his big-league debut Monday, a Red Sox win against the New York Yankees.
“(The Red Sox) told me they wanted defensive versatility. I was like ‘What do you mean? That’s what I do best,’” Sweeney said. “Bradley was having a good spring training. We’ll see what happens when the regular-season starts.
“It’s tough. I’ve gone through some injuries and things. When you get that reputation of being a backup outfielder, it’s hard to get out of that.”
He’s not giving up, though. Not by a long shot.
“I don’t feel like this is the low point of my career or anything,” Sweeney said. “It’s just a little bump in the road.”
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