SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For the first time in nearly eight months, Nick Swisher got to take some swings against major-league pitching on Wednesday as he was the Indians’ designated hitter during Wednesday’s Cactus League game against the Giants.
After striking out in his first at-bat, Swisher singled his next two times up and had an RBI in the 5-2 loss.
"I feel like it has been Groundhog’s Day for me doing the same thing every day," Swisher said. "To be working this hard and to get to this point where I could go out and compete at this level is good and helped raise my spirits."
Swisher hadn’t played in a game since Aug. 9, when he went 1-for-3 against the Yankees. He was placed on the disabled list for the second time with knee problems and ended up having bi-lateral knee surgery on Aug. 20 in Los Angeles.
Throughout spring training Swisher has been able to take part in batting practice but the running progression has been slow. After running the bases multiple days late last week he got some at-bats during minor-league games on Monday.
Manager Terry Francona said on Tuesday that Swisher would accompany the team to Houston for the first series of the season and then return to Arizona for extended spring training. When he is able to work up to rehab games for Akron or Columbus is undetermined.
"It was really good for him to get out there whether he got hits or not," Francona said. "It was nice to see him get on base a couple times. It was helpful to him and hopefully gives him a push in the right direction. I think he had fun and makes him feel a little bit closer to the finish line."
Swisher’s RBI came in the fourth as he had a one-out bloop single to left off World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner to score Ryan Raburn and tie the game 1-1. Swisher faced Bumgarner, a left-hander, the first two times and then singled to center off right-hander Yusmeiro Petit in the sixth. After his second hit, Swisher was lifted for a pinch-runner.
While Swisher’s at-bats were good there were other areas that show he still needs to get into baseball shape. After the single, he was forced out at second on a Lonnie Chisenhall ground out and had an awkward slide.
Francona said one of the biggest things that will determine when Swisher is able to return is when he is able to play multiple games in the outfield. When Swisher does rejoin the lineup, he is likely to be used mostly as a designated hitter but he does offer versatility at the corner outfield spots and at first base.
Swisher didn’t want to put a timetable on when he would be ready for the season, but the earliest he might be back is early May.
"Do I feel like I can come back and DH for this team and contribute right now? Sure," Swisher said. "But I want to be able to go in the outfield and first base. I want to make sure my movements are smooth. We’ve been grinding. To come out and have fun has been great for me."