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04/17/11 1:40 PM ET

Grady-A addition: Indians activate Sizemore

Tribe places Talbot on 15-day DL to clear room on active roster

CLEVELAND -- Manny Acta looked forward to many things when he took over as the Indians' manager prior to last season. There was one aspect of his new role, however, that had Acta especially excited.

Acta wanted to watch Grady Sizemore play.

"I have always dreamed," Acta said, "since I took this job, about seeing how he was when he was on top of his game."

Acta did not receive that opportunity last year in his first tour with the Tribe. Cleveland lost Sizemore to a serious knee injury early in the season, and he was shelved after microfracture surgery and the complicated rehab process that followed.

On Sunday, the Indians got their All-Star back.

As anticipated, the Tribe officially activated Sizemore from the 15-day disabled list, ending a long recovery from his delicate knee operation. To clear room on the team's active roster, Cleveland placed starter Mitch Talbot on the 15-day disabled list with a right elbow strain.

Talbot is expected to miss at least three or four weeks with the arm issue. With him out of the picture for the foreseeable future, the Indians plan on recalling righty Jeanmar Gomez from Triple-A Columbus to replace Talbot in the rotation, beginning with a start on Tuesday in Kansas City.

Tough break for Talbot.

Exciting news for Sizemore.

"I've been looking forward to this for a long time," Sizemore said. "It's finally here."

The 28-year-old Sizemore -- a three-time American League All-Star and two-time Gold Glove Award winner -- returned to the Indians' lineup as the club's leadoff hitter and center fielder. On his first day back with the team, Sizemore filled both roles in the finale of a three-game series against the Orioles.

With Sizemore back in the fold, Michael Brantley will shift out of center fielder and into left. Brantley, who entered Sunday hitting .302 on the year, will also vacate the leadoff spot on days that Sizemore is in the lineup. On Sunday, Brantley was given a routine day off.

Sizemore said he has known for some time that he would return to the top of the order.

"I knew going into spring," Sizemore said. "We talked about it. Obviously, the team's been playing well, so you don't want to mess up too much, but I kind of had a good idea that's where I'd be. That's where I've played.

"That's where I'm comfortable and what I'm used to, but I'll do whatever needs to be done for the team."

Due to a variety of health woes, Sizemore's last full season came in 2008, when he hit .268 with 33 home runs, 39 doubles, 38 stolen bases and 90 RBIs over 157 games for the Indians. In 2009, Sizemore appeared in only 106 games for the Tribe because of a left elbow issue.

Sizemore was then limited to 33 games last season due to the knee injury, which first became an issue when the center fielder slid into second base during a Spring Training game against the Dodgers on April 1. Sizemore re-injured the knee on May 16, and missed the remainder of the year.

In June, Dr. Richard Steadman performed the microfracture procedure on Sizemore's knee in Vail, Colo. During the operation, tiny holes were drilled into the knee -- causing small fractures -- as a way to stimulate cartilage growth. Sizemore didn't know how long it would be before he saw a baseball diamond again.

"We didn't know what to expect," Sizemore said. "Going into that surgery, I had no idea really how severe it would be and how my knee would react."

Still, Sizemore set Opening Day 2011 as his target date for return.

He did all he could during the offseason and throughout Spring Training to meet that goal. While abiding by a strict schedule devised by the Indians' medical staff, with occasional follow-ups with Steadman, Sizemore slowly moved from light baseball activities at the end of the winter to playing in games by the end of spring.

After building up his stamina in Cactus League games, it became clear that returning by Opening Day was not realistic. That being the case, Sizemore embarked on a Minor League rehab assignment, which he recently concluded after stops with Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus.

"He worked very hard," Acta said. "You've got to give him a lot of credit. It takes a lot of patience to rehab from those types of injuries. He's worked very hard, and now he's excited to get out there."

Adding to that excitement level is the fact that the Indians entered Sunday's action with a 10-4 record and tied for first place in the AL Central. Sizemore said the hardest part about his rehab was simply missing so much time. Given the team's recent play, he could not wait to get back on the field.

"It's been fun to watch," Sizemore said. "It's been great watching the guys play well. You just want to be a part of that. I'm looking forward to stepping in there and catching up with those guys."

In the bottom of the first inning on Sunday, as Sizemore's name was announced over the Progressive Field speakers and he walked up to the plate, the fans inside the ballpark rose to their feet, offering loud cheers and a standing ovation.

In the third inning, Sizemore showed his appreciation with a towering solo home run that arced over right field before crashing into the seats.

Acta can't wait to watch Sizemore return to the top of his game.

"We didn't have an opportunity to see it last year," Acta said. "I'm looking forward to seeing him get to that level again."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.