GOODYEAR, Ariz. –-Indians manager Terry Francona is not expecting Nick Swisher to be ready for the April 6 opener at Houston.
"As it progresses it is a little bit of a reach to think he’d be ready, even in his own mind," Francona said before Monday’s Cactus League game against Oakland. "We want him to be healthy and go off his schedule."
Swisher, who had surgery on both knees on Aug. 20, has been taking live batting practice since the start of spring training but has only ramped up the base running and fielding over the past week. Sunday marked the first time that he ran the bases without wearing knee braces.
Francona said that Swisher was a little timid at the start of the session and then started to gain confidence. Swisher will do more base running and outfield drills on Tuesday before playing in a minor-league game on Wednesday. Even that won’t be full speed though as a pinch-runner can be used.
Francona is hoping that they can gradually ramp up the intensity of the drills as things progress. The Indians are hoping that more of a timetable on Swisher’s comeback becomes clearer later in the week.
There are two major hurdles that Swisher has not cleared yet — he has not run the bases at full speed and is not yet in "baseball shape". Francona thinks that it won’t take long for him to be ready for games.
Swisher starting the season on the disabled list also prevents Francona from having to juggle three players at two spots as Brandon Moss and David Murphy can start the season as the designated hitter and right fielder. When Swisher does return, he would be an outfielder or designated hitter. In 34 games as the DH last season Swisher batted .235, which was 27 points higher than his season average.