Nick Swisher Gives Yankees Unexpected Options

Perry ArnoldSenior Analyst IApril 16, 2009

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 15: Outfielder Nick Swisher #33 of the New York Yankees runs to first base against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on April 15, 2009 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Nick Swisher was acquired in the off-season to play first base for the New York Yankees.

Swisher was coming off a less than respectable season in Chicago, where he finished with a .219 batting average.

Many Yankee fans were less than enthusiastic about Swisher replacing Jason Giambi at first.

Then on Dec. 23, 2008, Mark Teixeira signed a multi-year contract to play first for New York.

The Gold Glove first baseman, who had averaged more than 30 home runs and 100 RBI for the past six years, apparently made Swisher the fifth wheel on the Yankees Cadillac.

It appeared Swisher was going to be stored in the trunk under the felt lining and only brought out in case of an emergency or a breakdown on the long journey to October baseball.

Xavier Nady was returning to the team after a very good '08 campaign, and it appeared certain that he would be the regular right fielder.

There was a great deal of discussion about how either Swisher or Nady should be traded, since the Yankees had a surplus of outfielders.

Counting Hideki Matsui, who was expected to be the primary Designated Hitter, the team had six outfielders for three positions.

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So, it was hard to imagine how Swisher was going to get many at bats and where he would see playing time.

But after losing the first two games to Baltimore, Manager Joe Girardi, inserted Swisher in the lineup in right field. Swisher hit in that game and he hasn't stopped.

Swisher has played in every game since, seven in total and over that span he has four home runs and 11 RBI.  After last night's game, Swisher was hitting .429 for the year.

Yesterday, the team learned that Nady had hurt his arm on a throw to the infield in Tuesday's game. Nady has gone on the disabled list, and there is a possibility he will require season-ending surgery.

The Yankees anticipate the return of Alex Rodriguez from the DL no later than May 15. Some believe his progress is better than expected and he could return much sooner.

When A-Rod comes back to the team, the production by Swisher will give New York some unexpected options.

The heart of the Yankee batting order would feature Teixeira batting third, A-Rod hitting cleanup, Swisher in the five hole and Posada hitting sixth.

With a very hot Robinson Cano following in the seven hole, the Yankees figure to have a great deal of production from this lineup.

Recent games have seen a willingness of Joe Girardi to use Jose Molina more behind the plate, with Posada as the DH.

This may be a very good trend, if Swisher continues to produce.

Molina is obviously the better catcher and the New York pitchers prefer to throw to him.

Molina cannot provide much punch with the bat, but it may not be necessary.

With Derek Jeter leading off and Johnny Damon hitting second, the team figures to get runners on base for the big sticks in the order.

The team may be able to afford Molina behind the plate. If so, they improve their defense, making them a better team overall.

Swisher has been a pleasant surprise so far, and if he maintains anywhere close to his present production, the Yankees may have a set line up that Girardi can rely on, instead of mixing and matching as he has done so far in this season.