CLEVELAND: Indians outfielder Nick Swisher is getting closer to his return to the Indians’ lineup.
Swisher was in Cleveland on Monday to work out and talk with Indians manager Terry Francona, General Manager Chris Antonetti and the training staff. Over the weekend, he played in two rehab games with Triple-A Columbus, collecting three hits in the first game and two in the second.
“It felt great,” Swisher said. “I think for me, it just feels nice getting back on the field and playing for something that actually means something. … Obviously, I’d like to be back here with this team right now, but Tito and I had a great talk today.”
The plan is for Swisher to travel with Triple-A Columbus on the current road trip to Rochester and Syracuse, N.Y. He’ll play a few games on consecutive nights, have an off day, and then play another couple of games in a row. After about a week, Swisher and the Indians will figure out a plan going forward and if he needs more time.
It was said during spring training that once he can play in back-to-back games in the outfield, he’d be ready, or close, to return. Swisher said Monday that perhaps it won’t be until he can play in three consecutive games. But that time is nearing.
“I think back-to-back-to-back games would be something that would show [the training staff] that, ‘Hey, this guy is ready to go,’?” Swisher said. “Offensively, I feel great. Do I think I could come up here and help this team right now? Absolutely. But that’s not the only thing I want to be able to do. I want to be able to help on both sides of the ball.”
The remaining problem is Swisher’s stamina and being able to stand on two surgically repaired knees for three hours one night and then doing it again the next day.
“Stamina, that’s it,” he said. “Standing out there, I feel pretty good until about the eighth inning and then I’m like, ‘[Dang] man, I’m starting to feel it.’?”
Swisher said it’s taken longer for him to get back to the field than he originally thought because his injuries were worse than he first thought.
“I thought this would be something I could bounce right back from just like I have every other little injury I’ve had,” he said. “This is obviously something that’s been a lot worse than what I expected.”
Swisher is in the third year of a four-year, $56 million deal that includes a vesting option for the 2017 season. In 2013, his first with the Indians, he had a down year compared with his career standards, hitting .246 with 22 home runs and 63 RBI. Last year was a miserable season. His knees gave up on him and he hit .208 in 97 games. It’s one of the reasons why the Indians are taking a long-term approach with Swisher. If he returns too early and gets hurt, it could be another lost season during a lucrative four-year contract.
“I’d much rather be out there as close to 100 percent as I could be from where I was last year, trying to go up there and hit with no legs,” he said. “I’ve tried to accept the fact that this is something different than I’ve ever done before.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.