By Stephanie Storm
Beacon Journal sports writer
Editors note: Monday night’s game between the Indians and Seattle Mariners was not completed in time for this edition. For the result go to www.Ohio.com.
SEATTLE: Indians manager Terry Francona had a little discussion with slugger Nick Swisher last week before the All-Star break about the possibility of moving him up in the lineup from the cleanup spot to No. 2 in the order.
But the move didn’t happen until Monday, when Swisher batted second for the Indians in the first game of a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners.
“I had talked with him last week but wanted to come into the break and just see if he got hot,” Francona said.
Swisher didn’t, as the Indians started the second half of the season with two losses in three games against the Minnesota Twins, entering Monday’s game at Seattle hitting .238 with nine home runs and 31 RBI.
So, for at least the foreseeable future, Swisher will move up to second while shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera slides down to fourth.
“Swish is a pretty conscientious guy and that shoulder’s been bugging him for awhile,” said Francona, who agreed that perhaps Swisher’s signing the big contract and wanting to contribute in a big way could also have played a part in his slump.
“Sometimes you want it so bad, to be so good, that maybe you try to swing a little harder or try to do too much,” Francona said. “That’s just human nature.”
Whatever the reason, it’s a lineup adjustment that makes sense for several reasons.
“On [Swisher’s] worst day, he sees a lot of pitches and he has a good on-base percentage,” Francona said. “And now with [Michael] Bourn running in front of him, the way Bournie is, every pitcher slide steps. So with some mistakes, Swisher will get some fastballs and the hole will be open.
“[Also,] I don’t want to mess with [three-hole hitter Jason] Kip[nis] and I think Cabby [Cabrera] can handle hitting anywhere. So, I think it’s got a chance to help get Swish moving in the right direction.”
Struggling in cleanup spot
Traditionally, Swisher’s been a No. 2 hitter throughout his career. But when he signed with the Indians in the offseason, the Tribe brass wanted to see if he could put a different kind of stamp on the game.
“We’re just switching it up a little bit,” said Swisher, who’s batting .198 with a .584 on-base plus slugging over his last 34 games since June 1. “I’m all for it, and hopefully, we’ll just roll out from here.”
Swisher isn’t sure if part of his struggles at the plate are due to getting caught up trying to produce the kind of power usually reserved for a traditional four-hole hitter.
“Maybe, “ he said, “I don’t know … I’ve never really been in that cleanup spot a whole lot, so obviously it’s been different this year. But for me going back into that two spot, where I’ve been for a long time, where I feel really comfortable, is good.”
Pressure on Cabrera
Cabrera also downplayed the role reversal, saying he didn’t expect to be pitched to any differently hitting lower in the lineup.
“I don’t think so,” said Cabrera, who entered the evening batting .246 with seven home runs and 34 RBI. “They know me pretty well already … I’m not changing nothing, just sticking with my approach and do the best I can.”
Still, Francona made sure Cabrera was comfortable with the switch as well.
“I talked to both of those guys,” he said. “If I thought it would [change Cabrera’s approach at the plate], I wouldn’t have done it. That’s being counterproductive.”
Wherever Swisher hits for the Indians during the second half of the season, he’s got a carte blanche vote of confidence from his skipper.
“To be honest with ya, I feel like we could leave Swish where he is,” Francona said. “He’s gonna get hot because he’s a good hitter. I think this is a chance to help him and help us in the meantime.”