Swisher healthy and ready for the 2015 season
CLEVELAND — After experiencing the most humbling and frustrating season of his career, Nick Swisher looks like he has come through everything in a better state of health and mind.
Five months after having surgery on both knees, Swisher on Friday said that he has lost 15 pounds and hasn’t felt this great since his junior year at Ohio State. How good?
"I feel pretty (bleeping) good, man," Swisher said on Friday. "I’ve never been through a challenge like this. I never struggled like I did last year because I was hurt. For me to be able to deal with all that and to be on the backside of all that is great."
Swisher began last season batting second and entrenched at first base. He homered in the home opener on April 4 and was hitting .231 after the first week of the season. That ended up being the highest his batting average got the rest of the year. By mid-May, he was dropped to sixth in the order.
By the time his season ended, Swisher was batting .208 with eight home runs and 42 RBI in 97 games. In his final 48 games, Swisher ended up batting .206 and struck out 62 times in 175 at-bats while mostly being the designated hitter.
With at least two seasons and $30 million remaining on his contract, Swisher had to hear plenty of rumors about the Indians looking to trade him. Swisher said that didn’t talk to general manager Chris Antonetti about the rumors and that no one from the team approached him about being traded.
If this was last season, this would be the point where Swisher would get chippy. Instead, the rehab time has allowed him to reflect on things. After playing with a huge chip on his shoulder last season over criticisms from fans and media over his play. Swisher has said he has buried all of it.
"I’ve done a lot of thinking about all that stuff. I was fired up about it a little bit, but then after doing all that, it’s like you’re putting your energy in the wrong direction. So, I just think with where I am right now, and with everything that did go down, I learned a lot," he said. "The chip is gone, man. I’m going to be a happy, go lucky guy. I’m going to have a blast. I’m not going to stress about things anymore, man.
"I’m going to go out there and play the game that I know how and the game that I love every day, because when you’re going through those tough times, the love and the passion for the game start to go away a little bit. You have to find something inside yourself to bring all that back. Whatever it was, man, I found it and I have it again and I could not be more happy for that."
Looking back on it, Swisher admits he should have opted for surgery earlier instead of trying to gut it out. Also coming in heavier than normal and a little more bulky to handle the everyday rigors of first base took a toll.
Since getting into town on Tuesday, Swisher has done some running the past couple days indoors at the Browns facility in Berea after getting cleared last week. He said he has been doing some work swinging for awhile.
Swisher added: "I feel like I can move around a lot more. And I always remember back when I was an outfielder, I never had any leg issues. Ever since I came over at first base, maybe that squatting, that side-to-side movement every single day, took a toll on my body. There’s a lot of things that we needed to clean up. There were a lot of things that I needed to change just in my body in general."
Where Swisher fits in to the current lineup remains to be seen. With Brandon Moss not beginning to swing until next week, Swisher could begin the season in right while also playing designated hitter and some first base. That is if Swisher is ready to go by the April 6 opener at Houston. Earlier this week, manager Terry Francona said that the team wasn’t putting any artificial milestones in place for Swisher to be ready and that they wouldn’t play him unless he was 100 percent healthy.
A major reason why Swisher will mostly be in the outfield or DH is the play last season of Carlos Santana at first. When Swisher had his first stint on the disabled list due to a hyperextended knee, Santana took over at first and saw improvements in his defense and at the plate.
The biggest area that Swisher is eager to try out is at the plate. He has reviewed plenty of video of his swing during the past couple seasons and said he has rebuilt it. In his two years with the Indians, Swisher is batting .231 with 30 home runs and 105 RBI in 242 games. He has also struck out once per 4.16 at-bats, which is 17th in the majors.
Despite last year’s trials and tribulations, Swisher wasn’t about to call the year a failure. He has spent most of the offseason in New Orleans while his wife, JoAnna, is filming a television series and has been able spend time with his daughter, Emerson, who turns two in May.
"It’s such a special time in her life, so for me to get that opportunity and for me to be able to raise her and just develop that tight bond that a father and a daughter should have, it’s one of the things that I was so blessed to have," he said. "I just think in general, man, I’m in a good spot right now, man. I really am. I feel like myself again. I don’t feel guarded. I don’t feel any of that stuff. I’m just excited to get back and be part of this organization and do whatever I can to help this team."