GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Nick Swisher didn’t feel the need to play early in spring training. When you’re an 11-year veteran, you know what it takes to get ready for the season.
By deciding to sit out some of the games at the beginning of the month, Swisher has had a strong second half of spring training for the Indians as they prepare for Monday’s opener at Oakland.
Swisher has had a hit in seven of the past nine Cactus League games he has played and has gone 11 of 26 with two doubles, three home runs and four RBI.
"I just think in spring training it is about getting your stroke down," Swisher said. "I don’t really look at the numbers because you get a lot of hits early off a lot of guys you might not see in the big leagues. Really later in spring training is when you are seeing a lot of the A guys."
Manager Terry Francona, who has been known to run one of the more veteran-friendly camps in baseball, supported Swisher’s approach. Another thing that has helped is that Swisher is more comfortable in his second year with the Tribe. Last year he was learning his new teammates and the franchise was getting used to how Francona ran things.
After a September surge and run to the AL Wild-Card game, Swisher likes the clubhouse chemistry.
"With the camaraderie and what the organization has accomplished, we’re just upping our game. We’ve never wanted to be a one-and-done type of club," Swisher said. "It’s crazy for people not to be looking at us and not think we have a good chance."
Even by his standards though it was a bit of a down year for Swisher. He batted .246, which was his lowest average since 2008. He did end up leading the team in home runs with 22 and joins David Ortiz as the only players in the AL to hit 20-plus homers from 2005-13.
Swisher’s greatest success though came when he hit second. In 62 starts after he was moved there on July 21, Swisher hit .256 with 13 home runs and 32 RBI.
With Michael Bourn out for the first four games due to a hamstring strain, some have wondered if Swisher would bat leadoff in Oakland. He was among the team leaders in on-base percentage last season and his 683 walks since 2006 are third most in the majors.
"I’m an on-base guy but I’m not a base stealer but that would be something to consider," Swisher said. "If he wants me to though, I’ll be there."
With the season beginning in Oakland, Swisher gets a rare opener at the place where he began his baseball career. He was drafted in the first round by the Athletics in 2002 and spent six seasons in the organization before being traded to the White Sox in 2008.
Swisher though is extremely eager to get back to Progressive Field next Friday for the home opener and see Section 117, otherwise known as Brohio.
At the beginning of spring training, Swisher gave everyone shirts that said "Unfinished Business". When asked for his interpretation of that message, Swisher said it could be a variety of things.
"For us we know the team we are. If we just do that, we’re going to have an amazing season," he said.