Girardi: Nady leading in right-field race
Swisher now projects as reserve outfielder, first baseman
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- With two weeks remaining in Spring Training, Xavier Nady has moved ahead of Nick Swisher in the race to serve as the Opening Day right fielder, Yankees manager Joe Girardi confirmed on Monday.
"If we were to break today, Nady would be my right fielder," Girardi said.
While dismissing the idea of a platoon, the Yankees had entered camp promising a fair number of at-bats to both Nady and Swisher, the latter of whom was displaced from first base when New York signed Mark Teixeira in December.
Nady, 30, was not impressed by his own performance this spring, hitting .256 with one homer and six RBIs in 43 at-bats through Monday. He said that he never viewed his situation as a competition.
"I still had the same mind-set going in, to try and get ready for the season," Nady said. "I know Swisher is obviously going to be a big part of this team. We both plan on playing a lot, and I think we're going to need everybody in order to have success."
Swisher now projects as a reserve outfielder and first baseman for the Yankees as he attempts to rebound from a troublesome 2008 season with the White Sox.The 28-year-old is hitting .257 with no homers and eight RBIs in 35 spring at-bats through Monday.
"They wouldn't have brought me over here if I wasn't going to do something," Swisher said. "We're just going to see how it goes."
After Girardi spoke to the media at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., he sought out Swisher to explain his reasoning. Following New York's 8-3 Grapefruit League loss to the Phillies, Swisher called the meeting a "good conversation," but admitted he was choosing his words carefully.
"I've got to continue being the same guy, and not letting this affect me in any way," Swisher said. "I'll just keep working hard and I'm going to try to do my best to bring that energy every day, even if I'm not playing.
"There's going to be a lot of at-bats out there for me. I've got all the faith in the world this is the place I want to be."
Girardi said that Nady's production with New York after he was acquired from Pittsburgh in a July 26 trade may have helped his cause in holding off Swisher, who still remains something of an unknown commodity.
"Nady did a lot of good things last year," Girardi said. "Obviously, he had somewhat of the upper hand coming in. Swish gives us a lot of flexibility. We haven't left yet, but if we were leaving today, I'd have to find a way to keep everyone happy and everyone playing, and find at-bats for people."
Nady was hitting .330 with 13 home runs and 57 RBIs in 89 games for the Pirates when the Yankees -- hoping to charge toward a postseason spot -- acquired him from the Bucs with lefty Damaso Marte in exchange for four players.
"You play this game to have a chance to play in October," Nady said. "When I was traded here last year, it was a dream come true. I showed up here and put on that Yankees uniform, and it was pretty special. It was a different feeling."
Though he showed pop with New York, belting 12 home runs -- including six that either tied the game or put the Yankees ahead -- Nady hit only .268 (61-for-228) down the stretch as the club missed the playoffs.
"It was definitely not pressure," Nady said. "It was getting used to it. Obviously, we faced some pretty good arms down the stretch -- at least A.J. [Burnett] is out of [Toronto]. For me, it was a new start and a lot of new arms I've never faced before."
Girardi said some struggles were to be expected as Nady adapted, especially to new hurlers that he had not seen from around the league.
"It's an adjustment," Girardi said. "You don't know what to expect. You don't know how pitchers are going to pitch you. The good thing is, he got to play a lot within our division, so he has a good idea with that. The other teams, not so much."
Nady said that he still feels uncomfortable at times this spring, which he thinks might be an effect of numerous off-days. He has worked with hitting coach Kevin Long on his pitch selection and hopes to increase his walk totals after working just 39 last year.
"I've always believed in myself and felt that I could have success in this game," Nady said. "I have a better understanding of what I need to do."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.