Swisher not worried about spring battle
Roster competition 'not our style,' outfielder says of him and Nady
TAMPA, Fla. -- It was November when Nick Swisher jumped on a conference call with the New York media, excitedly saying all the right things and introducing himself as the Yankees' new first baseman.
That assignment lasted only a month. Two days before Christmas, the Yankees agreed to an eight-year, $180 million contract with Mark Teixeira, immediately displacing Swisher and sending him into what figures to be a fierce spring competition for right field with Xavier Nady.
"At first, I was like, 'Man!'" Swisher said. "It would have been fun to play first base for the Yankees and be in one spot for the entire season. But getting a player like [Teixeira] with that sort of talent ... it's nice to have him on our side, instead of him killing us."
With the opportunity to fill a need for future and deal a blow to the Red Sox, few could argue with the move to acquire Teixeira. But it threw a wrench into the Yankees' Grapefruit League plans, which already had set one battle between Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner for center field.
With Johnny Damon entrenched as the left fielder and Hideki Matsui using the designated hitter role to recover from left knee surgery, the battle for right field pits Swisher and Nady in a fight for playing time and at-bats.
Asked about the circumstances before Sunday's workout, the hyper-caffeinated Swisher immediately sought out Nady.
"X! Everybody's trying to stir all that controversy again, bro," Swisher said, as Nady shook his head in an amused fashion.
Settling back to his clubhouse chair, where his iPod often can be found cranking pop and dance music into the room at loud volumes, Swisher said that he and Nady are not taking the roster crunch seriously.
"That's really not our style," Swisher said. "Everyone just keeps trying to stir stuff up. At least, it's not my style. We've got a bunch of great players. What's so bad about that? I know that we're all really, really excited about what this team is capable of doing."
Nady said that he has not wasted much time thinking about the situation, since it's out of his control.
"I'm just coming to camp with the same mind-set I've had the last nine years," Nady said. "I'm just going out to stay healthy and most importantly get ready for the season. That's all I've really known how to do. I feel like it's a chance to get going and see where you're at, and hopefully, find something before the season starts."
Nady said that he was excited when the Yankees signed Teixeira, and did not offer a second thought to the idea that it might somehow affect his job security.
"Anytime you can add someone like that to the middle of your lineup, everyone benefits from it," Nady said. "It's a good presence to have in the clubhouse. Hopefully we'll be all right and find ourselves playing in October and November."
While Swisher still may see some time at first base in a backup role, the Yankees envision him as a corner outfielder, only assigned to center field in emergency circumstances. Manager Joe Girardi said that he does not plan on using an outfield rotation, wanting instead to have as constant a lineup as possible.
Though Swisher hit only .219 with 24 home runs and 69 RBIs for the White Sox last year, posting a .743 OPS, there is plenty the Yankees like. Girardi said that the switch-hitting Swisher's ability to get on base, hit for power and work the count can make him an asset for the club this year.
But the Yankees also enjoyed what they saw from Nady down the stretch last year, acquiring him from the Pirates on July 26. Nady hit .268 with 12 home runs and 40 RBIs in 59 games for New York, with a .794 OPS, but those numbers were impacted by a September skid as the club disappeared from playoff contention.
The numbers don't crunch on paper -- New York simply has too many outfielders for it to make sense right now. But injuries have a way of working things out; the Yankees could be one unfortunately placed fly ball away from suddenly being down an outfielder.
"You can't predict how we're going to come out of Spring Training," Girardi said. "Swish gives us a lot of flexibility; Nady did a wonderful job for us. You hope everyone comes out healthy, but you can't predict it.
"It's something that I have to balance and juggle and make some tough decisions when Spring Training ends -- or the decisions might be made for us."
General manager Brian Cashman could also intervene. The Yankees not-so-quietly shopped both players over the winter, telling teams that they would be more inclined to trade Nady because he is a free agent after the 2009 season and -- with Scott Boras as his representative -- is likely to test the waters.
While there was considerable interest in both Nady and Swisher, the Yankees never heard an offer that blew them away. That told Cashman it was prudent to bring both players to camp, just in case a development warranted keeping both players on the roster or a new deal proposal cropped up from outside the organization.
"I don't pay attention to that stuff -- you can't," Swisher said. "If somebody is interested in Swish or interested in X, that stuff has been going on for like three months now. All I can really worry about is just going out there and play every day. I love what I do and I have been blessed to be put in an unbelievable situation. I want to go out and make the best of it."
While the same might not be able to be said for Swisher's music selection, Girardi said the arrangement is not creating a disturbance in the clubhouse.
"You know that each one of them wants to play every day," Girardi said. "The more great players we have on the team, the better team we're going to be. There are necessarily no edges. You want them both to play at a very high level, and then we go from there."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.