During his recent rehab stint with the Lake County Captains, Nick Swisher said that, more than anything, he enjoyed being part of a team again.
“Even if it’s not my team, it’s still part of a team,” Swisher said Monday night after his first appearance with the Captains. “When you’re banged up and going through this rehab process, you don’t really feel like part of anything. You kind of just feel like you’re in the way. It’s a big step in the right direction for me.”
Despite sharing only two games with the Low-A squad, Swisher worked with his new teammates more than just on the field. He treated them to a post-game dinner more worthy of the big leagues, giving them – literally – a taste of what it could be like to be in his shoes one day.
“What goes around comes around,” Swisher said of the spread to be served to the team. “You’ve got to repay them.”
While Low-A players likely don’t dream of the day they’ll be back in a minor league clubhouse during a rehab assignment once they make it to the big leagues, having a Major League player in their midst is a reminder that their future playing time won’t always be a walk in the park. They, too, will have setbacks, both mental and physical.
“It’s been such a long road,” Swisher said of his rehab journey. “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy; this has been really tough. I think, just for myself, I’m enjoying the moment right now and doing what I can to get strong and healthy, and get back there with the big boys and help them out.”
For Swisher, the past two seasons have marked the first time he has really suffered a major physical setback in his career. Swisher ended last season by undergoing knee surgery on both knees, which set back his start to 2015, which he said may still have come too soon.
Swisher played 30 games for the Indians this season and is currently on his second stint on the disabled list this year. In those 30 games with the Indians, Swisher hit .198 with only eight RBI.
In his first game in Lake County on Monday, Swisher went a solid 2-for-3 on the night with only one major flub. In the SOMETHING inning, he hit a single into right field. While attempting to stretch it into a double, Swisher’s knees showed their wear. He clumsily slid into second base, but never actually made it to the bag before being thrown out.
“I didn’t know the ball was going to ricochet back 20 feet to the outfielder,” Swisher said. “It was like ‘Major League;’ he was waiting there with the ball.”
In his third at-bat of the evening, Swisher made it safely to first base and managed to move all the way to third on a double from Anthony Santander. After an intentional walk to Bobby Bradley loaded the bases, Swisher scored on a sacrifice fly hit by Yonathan Mendoza to put the Captains ahead of the Tin Caps 2-1.
“That’s exactly what we’ve been doing in this rehab process – base hit, first to third, then tag at third,” Swisher said. “When the ball went up, (Manager Shaun) Larkin said, ‘Hey man, if you want to go, you can.’ I said, ‘Bro, I’m going!’”
Swisher made his second rehab appearance with the Captains on Tuesday, playing right field, which he was eager to do.
“DHing is fun, but being able to get out there in the outfield, hopefully being able to lay out for a couple balls, walk up [the next] morning, I got skinned forearms – that’s the stuff that I miss,” Swisher said. “I’ve always been pretty balls to the wall kind of guy, and right now, I feel like I’m able to do that again. Mentally, that’s a great feeling to have.
“It felt nice, just having the ability to run around and get dirty and be down on the field.”
Although Swisher said his knees felt great during his play, it’s clear there is still some work to be done before he makes his way back to the big league club. And Swisher knows that, this time, he isn’t going to rush into anything.
“I’m not gonna give you a timeline; I have no idea,” Swisher said “We’ve come so far. This is the last time I want to go through all this. It’s hard, and it makes playing the game no fun because it takes so much effort to just get yourself ready to go, and, after the game, you feel like you’re just putting bandaids on stuff to get ready for the next day. I think where I’m at now, I feel comfortable, I feel confident now – physically and mentally, because I love it and I’m back to being myself.”
And, not to worry, Swisher was certainly back to being himself at Classic Park – amidst the typical Classic Park chants and cheers could be seen Swisher’s signature “OH-IO” on the field.
Photo: Tim Phillis/TCP Photography