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Swisher's numbers are down but his energy is not

Cleveland Indians' Nick Swisher reacts to striking out against the New York Yankees during the first inning of their MLB American League bas
Cleveland Indians' Nick Swisher reacts to striking out against the New York Yankees during the first inning of their MLB American League bas

By Steve Ginsburg

BALTIMORE (Reuters) - Nick Swisher struts toward his locker with his arms moving in an exaggerated motion that might symbolize ocean waves, but only he knows for sure.

He plops down in a chair with a high-pitched yelp, flashing a sweeping smile.

The first-year free agent signee of the Cleveland Indians is battling a shoulder injury and hitting in the .230s but feels none of the strain despite being the team's highest-paid player.

"I'm just one of those fortunate guys, man," Swisher told Reuters before the Indians' series-opening game on Monday against the Baltimore Orioles.

"There's very few people out there that can say they're doing exactly what they wanted to do when they were six years old. I'm one of those guys that gets to do it.

"I'm one of 750 big leaguers on the planet who gets to do what he enjoys every single day. This is all I ever wanted to do."

Swisher joined the Tribe this year after four seasons with the New York Yankees with whom he won a World Series in 2009 and made the American League All-Star team a year later.

A career .255 hitter, Swisher is one of those players whose value goes beyond what he does between the white lines. Armed with an infectious grin, boundless energy and genuine optimism, the Indians signed Swisher to a four-year, $56 million deal.

MAGNIFICENT ADDITION

He's hitting just .236 year but manager Terry Francona has no regrets landing the 32-year-old, 10-year big-league veteran.

"I can't find a single reason to say we're not thrilled we signed him," he said. "Two months don't make a year. I'm confident he'll look up at the end of the year and he'll have pretty solid numbers.

"He's a good first baseman, he can go play right-field, he can switch-hit and he has enthusiasm up the wazoo. Even though his numbers are a little down, it was still a great signing for us."

The Yankees essentially let Swisher walk but the Columbus, Ohio, native was able to return to his home state when he signed with the Indians.

"Oh man, it's hard to compare New York and Cleveland," he said with a laugh. "But for us, my wife and I just had a little baby girl. We could not be happier with where we are."

Being happy is a major part of Swisher's legacy, even though as a baseball player failure is commonplace, especially at the plate.

"This game is frustrating a little bit but I try to do it with a smile on my face," he said. "You're not always going to do well. It's almost like we're playing this game to fail seven times out of 10, you know what I mean?

"But for me, man, I just have a true passion for this game. I love what I do and I think it shines through me."

The Indians were 39-36 heading into Tuesday's game against the Orioles, sitting in second place in the American League Central Division, 3.5 games in back of Detroit.

Cleveland shortstop Mike Aviles said Swisher has been a magnificent addition for the young ballclub, both on and off the field. He said Swisher's exuberance is genuine.

"No matter what is going on with him he always is the same person," Aviles said. "From the outside looking in you'd have to say, 'Oh, that's a show. There's no way he's really like that.

"I promise you all day, every day he's the same person."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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