Swisher Eyes Opening Day Return

Boos, trade rumors, and trips to the disabled list. 2014 wasn’t very kind to Nick Swisher, who hopes to be ready for the Tribe’s April 6 opener in Houston after season-ending, double knee surgery in August.

The 34-year-old is coming off a season that was statically the worst of his career. In 97 games, Swish hit .208 with eight homers and 42 RBI after hitting 20+ homers and 63+ RBI in nine consecutive seasons. His defense was nothing to write home about either. Nine errors in 52 games were just two shy of the most he’s committed in an entire season (11 in 2008 with the White Sox). Swisher’s nightmare season finally came to an end in August when he underwent arthroscopic surgery on both knees.

The Indians signed the former Ohio State baseball star to a four-year $56 million contract before the 2013 campaign. That season he hit .246 with 22 home runs and 63 RBI in 145 games. In his previous four seasons with the New York Yankees, he averaged .267 BA / 26 HR / 87 RBI. While it’s safe to say the Nick Swisher Project hasn’t played out as planned, Swish is staying positive and focused on getting back on the field.

“I’ve been grinding,” Swisher told Paul Hoynes from Cleveland.com at Spring Training. “My injury wasn’t just something that snapped. After everything they did, after all the clean up, now it’s just getting those knees used to the wear and tear.”

When and if Swisher does return, it will be in a designated hitter role. Other DH candidates Ryan Raburn (left knee) and Zach Walters (oblique) are also battling injuries, so it looks like Brandon Moss will be penciled in at DH on opening day. Moss, acquired from Oakland in the offseason, homered in his Spring Training debut March 9th after offseason surgery to repair a torn right labrum.

“For me it’s trying not to get frustrated with it,” Swisher said. “But I’m getting better every day. That’s my goal – to continue to keep getting better every single day.”

With two years and $30 million left on his contract, it would be nice to get some production from Swisher in 2015, even if it’s in a Jason Giambi type role. His experience, signature energy, and love for the game could pay dividends now and down the road for a young ball club like the Indians.

“I want to get ready for that opening day,” said Swisher. “That’s my final goal. I’ve got to keep grinding.”

Getting on the field after double knee surgery is hard. Producing when you do get back on the field is even harder. If anyone can pull it off, it’s Swisher. Keep grinding, dude.

Photo: Chuck Crow/Cleveland Plain Dealer

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