Nationals

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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What to watch as Nats continue three-game series against Marlins

What to watch as Nats continue three-game series against Marlins

This is the Nationals’ first time in Miami this season, and the team finished with a 3-2 loss against the Marlins on Friday night. Here are a few things to look for as they enter the second game of the three-game series against the Floridians: 

  1. Friday night’s situational hitting was poor, NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas reported. The Nats left 10 runners on base in a 3-2 loss to the Miami Marlins.However, the Nationals’ offense has changed this season. This was exemplified in Friday’s series opener against the Marlins, in which both Adam Eaton and Victor Robles bunted to get hits.
  2. Eaton singled on a bunt in the first inning, eventually scoring on a Juan Soto RBI single, while Robles also reached base safely in the third following Eaton’s strategy and then stole a base. These creative plays helped get men on base, but again, more often than not they stayed there. Brian Dozier hit his second home run of the season in the seventh inning, a solo shot which gave the Nats their second and final run of the night. Dozier had a rough start to the season, and after Friday’s game, he has just two RBIs – both via solo homers. He has a batting average of .182, and he’s lost playing time to Howie Kendrick as the season has moved forward. Kendrick has a batting average of .477, the highest on the roster.
  3. Anthony Rendon continued his hit streak, extending it to 17 games with a double Friday. This is the longest hitting streak in the MLB this season, as well as the third baseman’s personal record. Within the organization, Rendon is chasing Hall-of-Famer Heinie Manush’s record, which stretched to 33 consecutive hits in 1933. Can he get another on Saturday?

 

Download the MyTeams app for coverage from NBC Sports Washington of the Nationals/Marlins game on Saturday. The game broadcast will be at 6:10 PM ET on 106.7 the Fan and MASN2. 

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Middling Anibal Sanchez and quiet bats do Nationals in against Marlins

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Middling Anibal Sanchez and quiet bats do Nationals in against Marlins

The Washington Nationals lost to the Miami Marlins, 3-2, Friday night to drop back to 9-9. Here are five observations from the game...

1. For all the offseason efforts at improvement, winning the National League East could come down to its one member which is trying to lose.

The four spenders each play Miami 19 times. By the end, going 11-8 against the in-the-tank Marlins may become a lamentable part of some team’s 2019 legacy. They either brought in a marquee pitcher, a generational outfielder or a former MVP third baseman. But they didn’t do enough against the Marlins, costing themselves the single, taut playoff spot that emerges from the division. It’s a viable storyline to project.

The Nationals took their first negative step toward that fate Friday in a 3-2 loss to the Marlins.

The situational hitting was poor -- Washington left 10 runners on base. The starting pitching was so-so -- Anibal Sanchez took the loss. The bullpen made one dire mistake -- Matt Grace’s first pitch hit left-hander Curtis Granderson with the bases loaded, forcing in the decisive run. The luck wasn’t great -- Caleb Smith, a quality left-hander marooned in Miami as the staff’s best pitcher, was on turn. Anticipate him representing Miami at the All-Star Game this season.

Brian Dozier homered. Mark that in the positive column. Joe Ross pitched two innings of quality relief. Put him next to Dozier.

Otherwise, the loss was sigh-worthy for a team trying to lurch forward, ending its up-and-down run of the first three weeks.

2. Another day, another hit for Anthony Rendon.

His sixth-inning double extended his hitting streak to 17 games, the longest in Major League Baseball this season. It’s also an extension of a personal best for Rendon.

Rendon’s 15 extra-base hits in 17 games is a Nationals/Expos record.

Who is he chasing for the organization’s hit streak record? Hall-of-Famer Heinie Manush, who hit safely in 33 consecutive games back in 1933.

Manush played for the Senators from 1930-1935. He hit .336 when he set the Washington record for consecutive game with a hit. He led the league in triples (17) and hits (221) that season.

Manush won a batting title in 1925 when he hit .378 for Detroit. Rendon is currently hitting .377 in the opening weeks of the season.

3. Sanchez was ok. Not great, not terrible. Just ok.

He lasted 5 ⅓ innings, allowed five hits, three earned runs, walked four and struck out six. His ERA is 4.91.

Regression for Sanchez this season was expected. His 2.83 ERA in Atlanta last season came strongly against the current of his previous pitching. Sanchez had a 5.67 ERA over the three prior seasons.

However, this has been a leap back, a full two runs in arrears of last season’s ERA. More troubling than the ERA is Sanchez’s path through lineups. His walk rate is up, his strikeout rate down.

As the season moves along, a comparison point for Sanchez will be the results of left-hander Wade Miley in Houston. The Nationals made a multi-year offer to Miley which was better than the offer he eventually settled on with the Astros, according to a source. Miley ended up signing for just one year in Houston because the free agent market went south, and Washington quickly pivoted to Sanchez. Keeping track of the two via ERA-plus (which accounts for park factors) during the season will be a fun exercise. Coming into Friday, Miley was by far the better pitcher in that department, 129 to 95. Another bloated outing from Sanchez only increased that gap.

4. The Nationals hoped to play a different brand of offense this season. They wanted to deploy more athleticism, using speed and contact to produce runs.

They took the idea to the extreme Friday. Adam Eaton and Victor Robles both bunted for hits. Eaton scored Washington’s first run after reaching base via his drag bunt up the first base line.

Robles stole second and ended up on third following his bunt in the same direction in the third inning.

Creative work at the plate for both.

5. Another bullpen twist hit Friday. Austen Williams was placed on the 10-day injured list because of a sprained right AC joint. Austin Adams was called up to replace him.

Williams had a disastrous outing Wednesday in the Nationals’ 9-6 win over the Giants. He allowed four earned runs -- on two home runs -- after the Nationals entered the ninth inning with a 9-2 lead. Williams’ inability to get an out in the ninth eventually forced closer Sean Doolittle into a game he never should have entered.

Doolittle’s entrance also complicated the current series in Miami. He pitched back-to-back games to close the series against San Francisco. His Friday availability was in question because of that, though the Nationals didn’t end up needing him.

The right-handed Adams, 27, joins the team from Triple-A Fresno. He struck out 12, allowed a hit and didn’t give up an earned run in his six innings with the Grizzlies.

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