Swisher anticipates a fresh start
Newest Bomber looks ahead to new opportunities in New York
NEW YORK -- Nick Swisher is doing his best to shrug off his disappointing 2008 season, in which not much seemed to go right. Next year may already be off to a better start, as the newest Yankee still hasn't stopped pinching himself.
Acquired last week from the White Sox in a swap that included Wilson Betemit and two Minor Leaguers, Swisher is looking forward for a chance to bounce back in New York, where he will have a chance to don the organization's famous pinstripes and attempt to make an impact on a club that expects to contend.
"It really is a dream come true," Swisher said on Tuesday in a telephone news conference. "I think every little kid in America, at one point or another, dreams about playing for the New York Yankees. Lucky for me, it's coming true. I couldn't be more excited, not only with the tradition but, more than anything, to just have the honor to be able to wear a uniform like that."
The Yankees have not set Swisher's role for next season in stone, although general manager Brian Cashman said during a conference call that if it were Opening Day, Swisher would be the first baseman. Swisher could also play a corner outfield spot if a trade shifted the landscape, and he would be able to play center field in a pinch, though the Yankees don't envision him as a starter there.
So first base appears the most likely destination for Swisher, who considers that his best defensive position, and he is curious to see how he would fare there over the course of a full schedule. The Yankees remain involved, to a slight extent, in the chase for free agent Mark Teixeira, but their interest is in laying cash upon the starting pitching market.
CC Sabathia is sitting on a six-year, $140 million offer, and the Yankees are reportedly piecing together an offer to A.J. Burnett that could land in the five-year, $80 million range.
Though Swisher considers Sabathia a friend, he has not attempted any recruiting on the Yankees' behalf -- at least not yet.
"I have not spoken with him," Swisher said. "I've known CC for a couple of years now, and he's just a great guy. If it all works out, obviously, everyone would be super-ecstatic if we can pull him out of Milwaukee. We're just going to have to see what happens on that one."
Swisher and the Yankees are hoping that his installation will produce numbers more like the ones he put up for the A's in 2006 and '07, when he averaged 28 home runs and 86 RBIs, and less like those of his troublesome season with the White Sox.
Upon introducing his new acquisition, Cashman referred to Swisher as a hard-nosed "grinder," a label Swisher appreciates.
"I think one of the best compliments you can have in this game is that you go out and play the game with passion, 150 percent," Swisher said. "I think that's the way I've gone about my career. Last year was a rough one, but hey, that's going to happen."
Admittedly pressing at times, Swisher was unable to be a force in Ozzie Guillen's lineup, finishing with a .219 average, 24 homers and 69 RBIs in 153 games. Though he said that he did not want to make excuses, he pointed to the uncomfortable experience of leading off for the first time in his career as one reason why his performance suffered with the White Sox.
Swisher said that he has put Chicago's experiences behind him and will be looking ahead. He received welcoming telephone calls from Alex Rodriguez and hitting coach Kevin Long during his first week as a Yankee, and though he hasn't done any apartment shopping in New York yet, he is optimistic that the city will provide him with a new opportunity he needs.
"This is a different year. This is '09, not '08," he said. "All the tough times I went through, I know in my mind that I've not only grown as a man, but as a player in general. In most situations, you only grow when you go through the tough times. Last year was a very humbling year for me, and I learned a lot from it."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.