Nationals

Nick Swisher ecstatic about joining Indians

201301031604578883895-p2.jpeg

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.

Quick Links

Re-live the final out that sent that Nationals to the World Series

nationalsworldseries.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Re-live the final out that sent that Nationals to the World Series

As the Nationals fan base collectively held their breath on Tuesday night in Washington, Victor Robles snagged the last out to send the Nationals to the World Series. Here's that moment: 

Here's the moment from a few more angles: 

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Nationals sweep Cardinal on their way to the World Series

Nationals sweep Cardinal on their way to the World Series

WASHINGTON -- Tuesday night appeared to end early, and in blistering fashion, ostensibly over just after the start.

A chunk of tension, modest doubt, and, eventually, a surplus of joy followed. The Nationals scored seven runs in the first inning to define their cushion for the night about 15 minutes into it. Ceremony -- and hanging on late -- remained.

Washington is going to the World Series. Read it again to absorb and believe it, and don’t feel alone in your challenge to consume that sentence. Managing principal owner Mark Lerner labeled the entire situation “surreal” -- from 19-31, to the Wild-Card Game resurrection, to beating the Dodgers in five, to the NLCS romp -- pregame Tuesday. He joked this is how they planned the whole thing. 

“Mike [Rizzo] talked about it before the season: let's have a real bad start, turn it around, make it really fun for everybody,” Lerner said with a smile.

No team has done this before, recovering from such a dismal 50-game start to advance to the final round of the postseason. The Nationals’ unlikely entrance into the 2019 World Series stands as a first for the organization and Major League Baseball. They bounced off the iceberg back to safe shores. Starting Oct. 22, they will open the best-of-seven World Series in the American League champion’s home thanks to Tuesday night’s 7-4 win. A flight to Houston or train ride to New York is in the offing.

The recovery was so long -- and slow to be believed -- it’s a well-worn tale. May 23 in a tight visitor’s office at Citi Field, Davey Martinez was adamant the season would turn around. Nothing but his voice indicated the idea was believable. Not math. Not the team’s play. Not the available roster. 

“I mean we're not out of it that's for sure, I can tell you that right now," Martinez said after the May 23 loss. “Like I said, everyday we're close, we compete, we're in every game. Now we just got to finish games.”

Martinez was thrown out of the game that night. Wander Suero gave up a three-homer to lose the lead. The morning trip to the stadium was a fiasco after the charter bus driver took the most traffic-filled route. At the end, players were irritated a train ride was on the horizon instead of a flight. The worst-possible outcome remained a daily achievement only to be outdone by the next day’s misery. 

The season pivoted behind hi-jinks, a healthier roster and cleaned-up play. Gerardo Parra introduced uncommon vitality. The starting rotation maintained. Key players -- Juan Soto, Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner -- trickled back into the lineup. The bullpen -- nevermind.

Fixing the groups was enough to push the Nationals into a narrow lane for the postseason. As would-be contenders in the division fell off, Washington lasted long enough to host the Wild-Card Game. A late rally launched them to Los Angeles. Down 2-1 in the series, they found a path to consecutive wins. The four-game NLCS stampede against St. Louis followed.

Seven runs, six hits and one of the most truncated starts in postseason history filled the bottom of the first inning Tuesday, paving a path to wrap up the outcome. St. Louis starter Dakota Hudson threw 15 pitches to seven hitters before his removal. Washington turned the game into a romp before St. Louis recorded two outs. 

Patrick Corbin moved along swiftly with the lead until a stall in the fifth inning. Three St. Louis runs temporarily squelched the stadium’s party atmosphere. The Cardinals were down 7-4, a gap modest enough to restrict blood flow through the middle of the game. 

Tanner Rainey pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning. Nine outs remained for Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson to divide.

Doolittle arrived first via the bullpen cart. Only nine pitches were necessary to move through the seventh inning. He faced the steel of St. Louis’ order, such as it was in the series, in the eighth: José Martínez and Paul Goldschmidt made outs. Marcell Ozuna singled, prompting Doolittle’s removal. Hudson was summoned, assigned four outs, beginning with Yadier Molina, a preeminent face of St. Louis baseball.

Hudson hit Molina with a fastball. He walked Paul DeJong after being ahead 0-2 in the count. With the bases loaded, Matt Carpenter pinch-hit. He rolled a 2-2 pitch to defensive replacement Brian Dozier, just into the game at the same time as Hudson, which Dozier initially knocked down before gathering and throwing. The inning ended. Everyone exhaled.

Hudson returned for the ninth. No one warmed in the bullpen. The entire crowd stood before the inning started. Kolten Wong flew out to left. Pinch-hitter Matt Wieters popped out to catcher Yan Gomes. Tommy Edman flew out to center.

When it was over, a bit after 11 p.m., Hudson threw his hands up and screamed. Everyone streamed out of the dugout and in from the bullpen. The 43,976 in attendance stayed to bask instead of zoom to the Metro. A presentation of the National League championship was to come, one which seemed a million-to-one shot in late May, before so much turned out to be right. Sleeping quietly were 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017. A new era started Tuesday night, the one in which the Nationals are National League champions. 

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: