MINNEAPOLIS -- Nick Swisher played a key part in the Indians' push to the postseason last September. If Cleveland has a similar run in store for the final month this year, the club's vocal leader will be relegated to rooting for his teammates from the sideline.
Swisher underwent arthroscopic surgery on both knees Wednedsay in Los Angeles, with Dr. Neal ElAttrache -- also the head physician for the Dodgers -- performing the debridement procedures. Swisher is expected to need eight to 10 weeks for recovery, giving him the chance to be at full strength for Spring Training next season.
"He's going to have some work to do," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "But, if he does it properly, and he maintains it, he'll be just fine. It's going to be different for Swish. He's used to showing up all these years and just playing. He's logged a lot of innings and played a lot of games.
"Now, he's going to have to do some preparation -- not that he didn't before -- to keep his knees to where they stay strong and durable."
The news effectively ended what had been a trying season for Swisher.
Swisher's signature energy and enthusiasm were put to the test as he dealt with injury issues off and on since at least May, and tried to get used to serving as the designated hitter rather than Cleveland's regular first baseman. In just 97 games played, the veteran hit .208 with eight home runs, 42 RBIs and a career-worst .608 OPS for the Tribe.
After examining Swisher on Tuesday, Dr. ElAttrache agreed with Dr. Rick Parker's assessment (in Cleveland last week) that surgery was the most appropriate route. According to the Indians, Dr. ElAttrache determined that Swisher was suffering from chronic medial knee discomfort in both knees as a result of medial meniscus wear and tear.
Swisher is scheduled to begin rehabbing his knees on Friday.
"We don't always give exact timeframes on things," Indians head athletic trainer James Quinlan said in a conference call on Wednesday. "But the doctor feels eight to 10 weeks is the general timeframe. In the offseason, he should be able to start a strength and conditioning program, and we expect Nick to be ready for Spring Training."
Quinlan, who was in L.A. with Swisher on Tuesday, said that having both knees operated on was the first baseman's decision. Quinlan added that the daily rehab schedule will be more involved for Swisher, but having both knees operated on is not expected to lengthen the overall recovery window.
"That shouldn't increase the rehab time that much, no," Quinlan said. "It just means that each day is going to be longer. He's going to have to do the same thing on both knees each day, but it shouldn't add to the rehab process that much."
The knee issues were first documented on May 23-24, when the 33-year-old Swisher sat to rest his right knee. Shortly after he returned to the lineup, Swisher hyperextended his left knee while running to first base in a game against the White Sox on May 26 in Chicago. The next day, the Indians placed him on the 15-day disabled list.
After Swisher was activated on June 12, he did not look like himself as a hitter. Known for his plate discipline throughout his 11-year Major League career, Swisher went without a walk and struck out 19 times in his first 11 games off the shelf. Across 15 games in June, he hit just .115 (6-for-52) with 21 strikeouts and two walks.
Swisher showed some improvement throughout July, when he posted a .257 (26-for-101) average with three home runs and 16 RBIs in 26 games. In that span, though, the switch-hitter had 30 strikeouts and just four walks. Overall, Swisher turned in a .206/.236/.343 slash line with 62 strikeouts and seven walks in 48 games after coming off the DL in June.
In that time period, Swisher mainly served as a DH, but Francona began using him as an outfielder occasionally in late July and early August. Swisher manned the outfield in four straight games from Aug. 6-9, following a stretch in which he started 32 of 40 games as the DH.
"I think he felt going out to the outfield actually helped him," Francona said. "There wasn't so much stopping and starting. There were days when he felt great, but it started grabbing him that day in New York."
During the Tribe's Aug. 9 win over the Yankees in New York, it was apparent that Swisher was favoring his knees while running the bases. He was also noticeably limping in Cleveland's clubhouse during the series in the Bronx. On Aug. 10, the Tribe opted to place him back on the 15-day disabled list, setting the current course of action in motion.
In two seasons with Cleveland, which signed Swisher to a four-year pact worth $56 million prior to last season, the veteran has posted a .231/.316/.386 slash line to go along with 30 homers, 47 doubles and 105 RBIs in 242 games. He played through a left shoulder injury in 2013, when he hit .246 with 22 homers and 63 RBIs in 145 games during the Tribe's run to the American League Wild Card Game.
"I think he's going to be really motivated," Francona said. "Regardless of how much money you've made, guys want to be good players. He's going to have his work cut out for him this winter, but hopefully getting a head start on it is good."