The Cleveland Indians are still unsure whether Nick Swisher will be ready for Opening Day, but he made significant strides toward his return on Tuesday afternoon.
In what manager Terry Francona called a ‘big step’ toward getting back on the field, Swisher ran the bases for the first time since having surgery on both knees in August. He is making steady progress but more information will likely be available on Wednesday, after his body has had a chance to react to his latest progression.
Before spring workouts began, the Tribe believed their designated hitter would be ready to start playing games by mid-March. He has been hitting in the cages for a couple weeks now, but the biggest setback has been running. Not from a lack of work though. According to Swisher via Paul Hoynes of Northeast Ohio Media Group:
"I’ve been grinding. My injury wasn’t just something that snapped. After everything they did, after all the clean up, now it’s just getting those knees used to the wear and tear. After the surgery, everything is brand spanking new so we have to build back up all those calluses [and] all that stuff inside the joint."
As reported by Zack Meisel of the Northeast Ohio Media Group, the monotony of the rehabilitation process caused the former Buckeye to have a “mini meltdown.” Though he still aims to be ready for Opening Day on April 6, Swisher has yet to appear in a spring training game. And since there is still no timetable for his return, there is a full-time spot in the lineup to be won.
Francona may elect to have David Murphy, Brandon Moss and Ryan Raburn share time between right field and designated hitter, but look for power-hitting prospect Jesus Aguilar to make a case for the big league roster until Swisher is ready to return.
—– UPDATE (March 18, 2015): According to Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group, Swisher’s first trip around the bases was “good, not great.” Terry Francona, who has had over 20 knee surgeries, said:
"Everytime you try to do something new, it’s mental along with being physical.With Swish it seems like every time the trainers give him something else, the first day is a little bit of a test. Then once he realizes he can do it, the next day he does better. It’s been that way pretty much all spring training."
Swisher is still having a difficult time decelerating, which is common for players who have undergone lower-body operations. Though he is a ways away from Cactus League action, Swisher seems to be progressing toward rejoining the Indians in the near future. Still doesn’t look good for opening day though.