New look has Swisher upbeat about 2012

New look has Swisher upbeat about 2012

New look has Swisher upbeat about 2012
TAMPA, Fla. -- In these earliest days of spring, Nick Swisher has taken to wearing a bandana on his head around the clubhouse, a souvenir from his winter workouts with college and professional football players.

That fashion statement might not last the year, but Swisher is hoping that his gains from a new training program will pay huge dividends as he enters a potential free agency season.

"It's the strongest I've ever been, the best looking I've ever been -- you can write that, too," Swisher said, laughing. "This is going to be a fun year for me. Last year was super stressful for me, and I'm just not going to do that this year, man."

Swisher, 31, wrapped up his regular season hitting a respectable .260 with 23 homers and 85 RBIs, but it took a second-half push to get there.

Frustrated by his opening act to the season, in which he hit .204 as late as May 25th, Swisher said that he is intent upon not making the same mistakes this year and needs to be better prepared for every situation.

"I think it wore on him," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Sometimes you can see the frustration when they walk back from the plate a little bit more. I thought he handled it pretty well. I didn't feel like he panicked."

Thanks to his offseason, Swisher said that he feels as though he's living in a new body, though the scale doesn't tell much of a difference. Swisher said he weighed in at 199 this year, compared to 203 or 204 a year ago.

"I started doing things right away from the gym, eating healthy and all that, then I really noticed my body changing," Swisher said. "I'm really, really excited about it."

The difference came in working out at Proactive Sports Performance in Westlake, Calif., working out with clients like the Baltimore Ravens' Ray Lewis, the New York Jets' Antonio Cromartie and the Green Bay Packers' Clay Matthews.

Swisher said that his sessions with head trainer Ryan Capretta, as well as fitness consultant Ashley Borden, helped him to cut down his midsection and build his upper body. He says that he is working out and living smarter.

"I'd always been one of those guys who always played for the tie, you know?" Swisher said. "I busted my tail in the gym, then you go to McDonald's and get three double cheeseburgers."

Swisher may have done away with the drive-thru window, but he may need to start thinking about the negotiating table. The Yankees wouldn't change a thing about the Nov. 2008 steal that imported Swisher from the White Sox, but there is a possibility that this could be Swisher's last year in a Yankees uniform.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said it had been "an easy call" to pick up Swisher's $10.25 million option last winter, lauding the switch-hitter's offensive ability, but the Yankees have thus far made no overtures about a longer-term deal.

"I'm not thinking about that. I don't care," Swisher said. "I've got a great job. I make good money. My wife [actress JoAnna Garcia] makes good money. Money's not a big thing for us. I do what I love, and that's coming here to the ballpark and playing ball every day.

"Whatever's going to happen is going to happen. I wish I could write in a book and script it out, I'd be here for the rest of my career, but if that's one of those things that, if it doesn't happen, then you've kind of got to roll with the punches."

The Yankees have loved Swisher's energy, but his postseason struggles are an unavoidable topic. To date as a Yankee, Swisher has assembled a 16-for-100 (.160) batting average in the postseason, including his 4-for-19 showing in last year's American League Division Series.

Speaking about the ALDS loss in general, Swisher said, "That's kind of part of the gig. You've got to step up in big spots and I think we're all ready to do that this year."

Girardi said that he doesn't see a need to speak to Swisher about his contract situation.

"I'm not a big proponent of planting a seed that doesn't need to be planted," Girardi said. "I think Swish is the type of guy that goes max-out all the time. That's just his personality."

Swisher noted that the Yankees traditionally have not negotiated multiyear deals in the middle of contracts, and he acknowledged the possibility that he may have to test free agency after this year, even if he ultimately winds up coming back to New York.

"You're going to have to, because that's how the Yankees work," Swisher said. "We're just going to cross that bridge when we come to it. I love this place, everybody knows that. This is the place I want to be. At the end of the season, after we're standing out there Nov. 1 after winning the World Series, we'll all party, and then we'll all get down to brass tacks."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.