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Nick Swisher ecstatic about joining Indians

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Nick Swisher ecstatic about joining Indians

CLEVELAND (AP) Nick Swisher's smile was broader and brighter than the Chief Wahoo logo on his new cap.

He was back in Ohio, back at home, back where it all started.

``This is the place for me to be,'' he said. ``All roads led to Cleveland.''

Swisher, who spent the past four seasons wearing Yankees pinstripes, was introduced Thursday by the Indians, who managed to land the free-agent outfielder by playing to his deep Buckeye roots and giving him a four-year, $56 million contract that includes a vesting option for a fifth year.

Not long after passing a physical and signing the richest free-agent deal in Indians history, Swisher was handed a new No. 33 jersey.

He might wear it to bed.

From the moment he walked into the media room at Progressive Field with a large group of family and friends, Swisher couldn't stop smiling and laughing.

``I can't help it, man,'' he said, shaking his head. ``This is unbelievable. I never in a million years thought I would be in this position. As a little kid you dream about playing in the big leagues, but I don't know if I ever dreamed about being in a situation like this. It's an amazing time for my family and I.''

The 32-year-old Swisher, who was born in Columbus and attended Ohio State, didn't try to hide his enthusiasm in joining the Indians, who convinced him that he could help their lineup and maybe get them back to the days when they were contending for AL Central titles on a yearly basis.

After trading Shin-Soo Choo last month, the Indians were desperate for a proven right fielder. They pursued Shane Victorino at the winter meetings, but after he signed with Boston, the Indians turned their attention to Swisher, who batted .272 with 24 homers and 93 RBIs last season - his fourth with the New York Yankees.

A switch-hitter, Swisher provides power and versatility to new manager Terry Francona's lineup. The Indians only hit 136 homers last season, second-fewest in the AL.

``This is a big deal,'' said Francona. ``I don't think there is any reason for us to be cool about this. I can't tell you how excited I am to have him. There were a lot of other teams that wanted this guy real bad. This is a big day for us."

Swisher acknowledged that when free agency began, he didn't expect the Indians to be one of the teams interested him. He had several multiyear offers from others, but the Indians were the most aggressive suitor and they used his Ohio connections to convince him to come to Cleveland.

When Swisher and his wife, actress JoAnna Garcia Swisher, visited Progressive Field last month, the club rolled out the scarlet-and-gray - Ohio State's colors - carpet to impress them. Upon arrival, they were presented with a tiny Indians jersey, sized for a baby. The couple is expecting their first child, a girl, in May.

``That definitely helped,'' Swisher said.

The Indians took Swisher on the field and had him walk to home plate. As he made his way onto the diamond, the public address system announced his name and the Indians played recorded messages from current Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer as well as Buckeyes basketball coach Thad Matta on the giant scoreboard, urging him to come ``home.''

Afterward, the couple went to lunch and the Indians surprised Swisher by bringing in former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel.

The recruiting push overwhelmed Swisher.

``We were walking out of here like, `Man, these guys did it right,''' Swisher said. ``They tugged on the right strings. They went Ohio State on me. They brought my idol Jim Tressel back. They did it right. Even with all the other places I visited, there was nothing compared to this. I have never felt love like this before.''

Francona's arrival in Cleveland also had an impact on Swisher, whose father, Steve, managed the two-time World Series winner in the minor leagues. Swisher said Francona's hiring played a major role in him signing with the Indians.

``You don't bring a guy like this over here if you don't plan on winning,'' Swisher said. ``To have that captain of your ship, a proven guy who knows how to manage the game the right way, that made it an easier decision for me.''

An All-Star in 2010, Swisher is just one of three American Leaguers to hit at least 20 homers in each of the last eight seasons.

With New York concerned about avoiding the luxury tax in the future, the Yankees did not go after Swisher after he turned down a qualifying offer from them. For Swisher, playing for the Yankees was special.

``I had an awesome time,'' he said. ``To be part of an organization like that with the winning tradition, it rubs off on you and hopefully that can be something that I can bring over here and maybe be more of a leader in the clubhouse than I ever have been before.''

Swisher's signing is among many offseason moves by general manager Chris Antonetti as he tries to rebuild a team which collapsed in August - going 5-24 - and finished 68-94. In addition to hiring Francona, the Indians signed free agent first baseman Mark Reynolds and acquired center fielder Drew Stubbs and prized pitching prospect Trevor Bauer in a three-team trade.

Swisher believes the Indians can win, and as he left the podium, he let everyone know it.

``Roll Tribe,'' he yelled, pumping his fist.

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Full 2018 NBA Draft preview for Wizards fans, including an interview with Robert Williams

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Full 2018 NBA Draft preview for Wizards fans, including an interview with Robert Williams

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller talked all things NBA Draft.

They gave their picks for the best options for the Wizards, the safest and riskiest prospects, plus what they expect the team to do. Texas A&M big man Robert Williams also joined the show in a 1-on-1 interview.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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The Nationals have had their eyes on Kelvin Herrera for years

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The Nationals have had their eyes on Kelvin Herrera for years

On Monday, in the middle of their game with the Yankees, Mike Rizzo did a very Mike Rizzo thing and added another strong arm to the Nationals' bullpen well before the trade deadline.

In a trade with the Kansas City Royals, the Nats dealt prospects Kelvin Gutierrez, Blake Perkins and Yohanse Morel for relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera.

Herrera, who's in his eighth season, has walked only two batters in the last 27 games and is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. 

"We just thought that it was a good idea to strike early," Rizzo said Wednesday on 106.7 The Fan's Sports Junkies, simulcasted on NBC Sports Washington.

"We thought the closer to the deadline we get, the more competition we'll have for Kelvin [Herrera]. We were able to strike a deal with Dayton Moore quickly and [we] couldn't be happier about it."

But Mike Rizzo didn't just come across Herrera by chance, he's had his sights on him for years.

"He was one of the guys that we kind of kicked the tires on [last year] and obviously the price for Kelvin at that time with a year and a half of control was a lot different than it was with four and a half months of control."

"We did have our eyes on him for years. He's been a great reliever for years. He's one of the guys we talked about when we talked about improving our bullpen." 

Herrera has spent all of his eight seasons in the big leagues with the Royals, even winning a World Series. Trades can bring both joy and angst, but Rizzo knows Herrera is excited to get back to playing meaningful baseball.

"This guy is such a competitor; Wold Series tested and playoff tested. He's happy to be playing meaningful games. He talked about what it takes to win a World Series, and you know, our guys were all ears. I think he's really thankful for getting the opportunity to get after it again and get another ring."

"At the same time, you know, it's hard for those old relationship to die and to move on, but he was very excited about being with us. I spoke to him after we made the trade and he [was] a little shocked, but really fired up about it. And when he got to the clubhouse, [he] met some of his old teammates - Timmy Collins and Ryan Madson -  and was welcome with open arms by not only the bullpen guys but everyone on the team." 

Herrera will join Sean Doolittle, Brandon Kintzler, and Ryan Madson to make about as deep of a bullpen as any in baseball right now.

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