Zimmer Debuts, and Swisher Rehabs in Big Night for Akron

Canal Park may have been the most popular spot to be in Akron this week.

Not only was it the homecoming weekend for Indians top prospect Bradley Zimmer, but it was also the rehab weekend for Indians 1B/OF Nick Swisher. On top of all of that, CBS Sports was also at Zimmer’s homecoming game to televise the entire event.

“Ya, that was pretty cool. I know my parents and everyone back home were watching so I’m glad they got to be a part of it,” Zimmer said.

Zimmer, 22, was the Indians first round draft pick in the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft. He was selected with the twenty-first pick in the draft, after originally being drafted by the Cubs in the twenty-third round of the 2011 draft. After the promotion of Francisco Lindor, Zimmer slid into the top slot for Indians prospects. He checks in at 6’4”, 185 lbs, but he’s more around 210 with all the muscle he’s already put on since he was drafted.

The reason why everyone is so excited about Zimmer is because of what he can bring to the game. He brings good power to the plate, consistency in his at bats, speed on the base paths, and solid defense in the outfield. He’s been playing center field thus far with the RubberDucks, but he’s also spent time previously in right field. With the current RubberDucks lineup, he’ll be spending most of his time in centerfield, while Jordan Smith will be sliding back to right field and splitting time there with Anthony Gallas.

On his home opener, Zimmer went 0-3 with a hit by pitch.

“It was a good atmosphere, it was a lot of fun,” Zimmer said. “Pretty good crowd, everyone was into it for the most part it sounded like. Unfortunately we didn’t get the win, but it was fun. I had a good time.”

In 11 games with the RubberDucks, Zimmer is hitting .282/.417/.462 with 4 doubles, 1 home run, 6 RBI and 3 stolen bases. He also has 4 walks to 10 strike outs.

Manager David Wallace has enjoyed having Zimmer’s bat in the lineup. For a team that has had no real big names all season long, bringing in a guy like Zimmer can balance out a lineup nicely just because of all the skills he possesses.

“I knew what we were going to get on the field, but seeing him off the field on how he interacts with the teammates and does all that. How he works pregame, we’re real happy with all that. Mature kid that has an idea of what he wants to do and who he wants to be, and he’s willing to put in the work to do it,” Wallace said.

Zimmer has progressed quickly through the system thus far, as he’s only one year out of being drafted. There is a real possibility that he could see time in Cleveland by 2016, but it all depends on how he performs at Double-A, and how he reacts to learning about some of the finer details about the game of baseball. That’s something the coaching staff likes to harp on at each individual level of the system.

“From the second he showed up, or signed his contract, we’re teaching our guys, not just him, but game situations and the finer details and finer points of the game and of baseball,” Wallace said. “Things that seem small, but you add them all up and they end up being a big thing and a lot of times big factors in the game. “

Swisher was also impressed by what he saw of Zimmer.

“I didn’t know he was that big. He’s only going to grow into that body, and he’s only going pack some more muscle on. I think just in general, just watching his movements, he’s got a great arm. He’s a big man, and he hit that ball real hard,” Swisher said.

As far as how the game went for Swisher, he went 0-2 with a walk in his first at bat. One of the first steps towards making it back to the majors is working on timing at the plate. Swisher showed that in his first at on Thursday.

“It was kind of nice. I started off with two strikes right out of the gate…but you know it was nice to just kind of battle back and foul some good pitches off and then to just draw that walk,” Swisher said.

When the Indians brought in Swisher, originally he was slotted for right field, which eventually turned into him playing first base. Over the last two seasons, he’s seen his time drop from no outfield time, to almost no time at first base as well. As he’s almost become a permanent DH, it’s been key for Swisher to try and get his knees back underneath him to allow him to spend more time in the outfield. In his first game with Double-A Akron, he played six innings in right field, and he looked healthy out in all six innings.

“It felt great”, Swisher said. “I feel like I’ve been jumping off the walls since I’ve gotten the opportunity to come back and start playing again. I just want to get my work in, do what I can to get back to the guys as fast as possible.

“I thought he looked good. I think he moved around well. I didn’t see anything that would be too alarming.,” Wallace said about Swisher.

The reason the Indians wanted Swisher so badly before the 2013 season was because of the type of power, and consistency , that he could bring to the plate. With the injuries that he’s suffered to his knees over the last two seasons, that type of power has not been there.  Swisher is finally starting to feel like he actually has his knees beneath him now after a couple of rehab starts.

“it’s kind of nice to get back in the batter’s box and feel like you have some legs underneath you,” Swisher said.  “That’s real good for me. It’s been a long road and we’re coming to the end of that tunnel. We’re going to start feeling really good man, and I couldn’t be more excited about that.”

As of right now, Swisher does not have a time table for his return. He’ll need to start playing back-to-back games in the outfield before he’ll make his trip back to Cleveland. Currently, the Indians have been using Brandon Moss, David Murphy, and Ryan Raburn in the corner outfield spots when Michael Brantley is starting centerfield. When Swisher is back, he’ll either be taking some of their time in the outfield, or slide back into the DH role. Regardless, the Indians are looking for a big bat at the plate, and Swisher is hoping to provide it again like he once did.

While they may be at different points in their careers, both Swisher and Zimmer have important roles to fill with the Indians. Swisher may be more immediate than Zimmer, but both are equally as important. The Tribe needs Swisher back as soon as possible, while with Zimmer, it’s more focused on seasoning correctly so that way he can benefit the team for many years to come.

Photo: David Monseur/MiLB.com

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  1. Can hardly wait for Nick to return. We need him to round out that line up. Bourn, Santana, Moss, and Swisher. How exciting is this?? Maybe Francona (or leader and braintrust) will bat him clean up !!!!

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