SEATTLE: Designated hitter Nick Swisher batted eighth Friday night for the first time in more than three years.
But as long as the Indians aren’t facing a National League opponent, it sounds as if Tribe manager Terry Francona will stick with the struggling Swisher and hope he hits his way out of an uncharacteristically long slump.
Swisher was batting .196 going into Friday’s game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. Since returning from the 15-day disabled list June 12, Swisher had hit .128 in 11 games (nine starts) with 19 strikeouts in 39 at-bats and no walks. In that span, all of his hits have been for extra bases, with three doubles and two home runs, both game-winners.
“The good part is the hits he’s gotten have been huge,” Francona said. “It’s not like he’s throwing a single in here and there.”
Francona has always been loyal to his veterans, and Swisher will be no exception.
“What I kind of hang my hat on is Swish has found a way always,” Francona said. “He’s done this before. Maybe not quite this length, but I think the trend will reverse and it will go the other way.”
He compared Swisher’s problems at the plate to that of Carlos Santana, who had a miserable start to the season but was batting .348 in June going into Friday. Swisher also needed cortisone shots in both knees while on the disabled list.
“It will happen. Swish got there last year, too, by having a great September,” Francona said. “You don’t always do it the most consistent way possible. I think that guys that have done it and are healthy will do it again — or at least close to it. When you spend the first couple months of the season and your average is low, you might look up at the end of the year and your average could be low, but the rest of your numbers could be pretty close.”
Of late, June hasn’t been kind to Swisher. In 2013, he hit .160 in 20 games.
RIGHT-HANDER ready — If Justin Masterson’s sore right knee doesn’t respond in time for his next scheduled start Tuesday, right-hander Zach McAllister looks ready at Triple-A Columbus. McAllister is 3-0 with a 1.48 ERA in 24⅓ innings of four Clippers games. He’s given up four runs, allowed 19 hits and struck out 20. McAllister went on the disabled list with low back soreness May 22, was activated June 16 and optioned to Triple-A the next day.
Still hot — Michael Brantley went into Friday’s game with a .325 average, fifth in the American League, and had hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games. In that span, he’d batted .458 with five doubles, three homers, nine RBI and a 1.294 OPS. His eight outfield assists ranked second in the majors behind Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes with nine.
— Marla Ridenour