Swisher returns to Tribe's lineup against KC

Swisher returns to Tribe's lineup against KC

KANSAS CITY -- Nick Swisher had been waiting for this day since last August. Insider the visitors' clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium, the veteran Indians outfielder turned around in front of his locker and flashed a wide smile as reporters approached on Tuesday afternoon.

"Happy Opening Day," beamed Swisher, who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in the Tribe's 5-3 loss.

Prior to the series opener against the Royals, the Indians officially activated Swisher from the 15-day disabled list, following his eight-month comeback from surgery on both knees. In order to clear a spot on the Major League roster, outfielder Tyler Holt was optioned to Triple-A Columbus.

Swisher served as the designated hitter and batted sixth against Kansas City.

"This is exciting," Swisher said. "For me, it's been a long journey -- a lot longer than I expected -- but to be standing here in the best shape of my life, feeling good, ready to go, ready to hep this team, it's just a good feeling to be back."

In six Minor League rehab games with Triple-A Columbus, Swisher hit .375 (9-for-24) with one home run, two doubles, three walks and five RBIs. He spent time as a DH and right fielder during the rehab assignment, but he will be used mostly as a DH by Cleveland for the time being.

The club's original plan was to activate Swisher on Friday in Cleveland, but the 34-year-old met with manager Terry Francona and general manager Chris Antonetti on Sunday to plead his case for activation.

"I asked them, I said, 'What else is there that I need to prove that I can do?'" Swisher said. "Missing that first month, watching the games on TV, all you want to do is be with your guys. But, then again, you want to make sure you're healthy enough to come out and do what you need to do.

"I think the biggest thing was just, for me, last year, was trying to get the pain to go away. Now, that's all gone. Now, I'm just ready to be the piece of the puzzle."

In 97 games last season, Swisher hit .208 with eight home runs and 42 RBIs in the worst offensive season of his career. His season ended on Aug. 20, when he had arthroscopic surgery on both knees performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Prior to 2014, Swisher had at least 20 home runs in nine consecutive seasons and appeared in at least 145 games in eight straight years. After signing a four-year, $56 million contract with Cleveland prior to 2013 -- the largest free-agent pact in franchise history -- Swisher hit .246 with 22 homers, 27 doubles, 63 RBIs and 77 walks in 145 games, helping the Tribe reach the American League Wild Card Game.

"I've watched every video of every movement he's made," Francona said. "I told him, I said, 'Hey, when we activate you, you're activated. He said, he goes, 'I'm ready.' And he told Chris the same thing. I think, to be honest with you, like his first step and his deceleration may not quite be where it's going to be, but I'm not sure three days is going to fix that, either. We'll kind of gauge where he's at."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.