Swisher to begin Minors rehab assignment

Tribe hopes veteran can contribute in outfield upon his return

Swisher to begin Minors rehab assignment

CINCINNATI -- The Indians have mapped out the beginning of a Minor League rehab assignment for veteran Nick Swisher, hoping he can return from the disabled list without being limited strictly as a designated hitter.

Prior to Sunday's game against the Reds, Indians manager Terry Francona noted that Swisher -- on the 15-day disabled list due to setbacks with his surgically-repaired knees -- will serve as a DH for three at-bats with Class A (low) Lake County on Monday. If everything goes well, Swisher would then play the outfield for four or five innings with the same affiliate on Tuesday.

"His attitude has been good. He understands what he's trying to do," Francona said. "He went out the other day in Cleveland, and he busted it. He got all over the place. He was sliding for balls, and he did a great job. The hard thing is that, when you're an everyday player, you've got to do that for nine innings, and you've got to bounce back the next day, and it's hard to simulate that.

"He understands that. Again, we don't want to hurt him, so we're just trying to build him up and get him to a point where, when he does start to play, he doesn't go backwards."

The 34-year-old Swisher underwent surgery on both knees in August and initially returned from the DL for Cleveland on May 5, appearing in 30 games before winding up back on the 15-day DL with inflammation in his left knee. With the exception of one game in right field on May 17, Swisher served exclusively as a DH or pinch-hitter, posting a .198 average with two homers and eight RBIs.

"When he came back the first time," Francona said, "[General manager Chris Antonetti] and I sat and talked with him, because he had done such a good job on his rehab. Both of us were like, 'Hey, man, coming back, you've got to be able to play the outfield.' He thought he'd be able to. [By] his own admission, it was harder than he thought it would be.

"So, when we sat down in Detroit [before placing him on the DL again], we were like, 'Hey, let's look at this, try to take the emotion out of it.' And he understood [that] being a DH only, it was kind of putting our ballclub in a little bit of a bind. So, for him to, one, to be productive, but then two, to be able to play the outfield, really helps us. And to also be able to play it to a standard where we can win.

"This is no reflection on his work ethic because he has really gotten after it. It's just been hard."

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