Swisher's bat starting to wake up
Center fielder trying not to put too much pressure on himself
SAN FRANCISCO -- Nick Swisher joked prior to Saturday night's game against San Francisco and former Oakland teammate Barry Zito how if the 2008 season suddenly was shortened to 50 games, his overall performance might not get the highest of grades.
With another 4 1/2 months remaining in this current campaign, though, Swisher has plenty of time to bring up his numbers with the bat. That transformation already has begun, with the White Sox center fielder entering Saturday having knocked out seven hits in 26 at-bats during this 10-game, West Coast road trip.
"The numbers are starting to speak for themselves, and I am feeling a lot better," said Swisher, who has a double, triple, home run and two RBIs on this excursion to Seattle, Anaheim and San Francisco.
"I don't think I'm putting any pressure on myself anymore," Swisher added. "It's not like I'm trying to do too much or trying to make such a huge impression. I'm just doing what I've always done, and that's getting on base, scoring runs and getting some base hits along the way."
Like any hitter mired in a slump, with Swisher sitting at a .212 average, four home runs and 10 RBIs even with his recent upswing, the energetic switch-hitter can point to a number of games earlier in the season where he hit the ball hard and had nothing to show for it. Maybe those line-drive outs are starting to balance out, as Swisher's single before Alexei Ramirez's game-winning home run Friday was of the broken-bat variety.
Greater frustration for Swisher comes from all the hard work he has put in not translating immediately into positive output on the field.
"It's not that I lost confidence, but it's definitely frustrating," Swisher said. "I'm here early hitting, doing all I need to get there. But the thing is that this game is all about results.
"If you go out and line out four times, you will go in the books for 0-for-4 and it's a horrible game. And that's the frustrating thing about it. When you do put the bat on the ball and you do put it in play hard and you have nothing to show for it, you are like, 'Oh my gosh. What did I do?'"
Swisher quickly got back to the point where he realized all he could do was grind out at-bats, while being himself, and know the hits will eventually come. It was an interesting beginning to 2008 for Swisher, playing for a new team which gave up three top prospects for his services, not to mention moving to center and batting leadoff for the first time in his career.
By Swisher's own admission, he should be hitting lower in the order right now, giving the guys who are "pounding the ball" in front of him a chance to get on base and provide him with a few potential RBI opportunities. It's these same teammates who Swisher credits for getting him back to the point where he needs to be to successful.
"I'm just going out there and having fun, not putting to much pressure on myself, not trying to hit it 600 feet every time," Swisher said. "I'll take the base hits, knowing the home runs will come.
"Remember, a lot of good things are happening, not just for myself, but for our team. For us to get that win last night, after two big wins in Anaheim, we just have to keep going and play hard."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.