NEW YORK -- Terry Francona was in the Dominican Republic this past winter when the Indians were trying to finish a contract with slugger Mark Reynolds. The manager had terrible cell phone reception and had trouble connecting with the free agent.
When Francona managed to get Reynolds on the phone, his message was simple.
"When I finally got him," Francona said, "he was like, 'Hey, man. I'm worried about getting platooned.' I said, 'Are you nuts? Shoot, I want you to hit about 40 homers.'"
There have been peaks and valleys -- Reynolds' current slump is a drastic contrast from his incredible April -- but the right-handed slugger has lived up to Francona's hopes so far. Heading into Monday's game in New York, Reynolds led the Indians with 13 home runs and 41 RBIs, putting him on pace for more than 30 homers and 100 RBIs.
Reynolds had, however, been in a regression over the last 26 games entering Monday. In that span, he hit .193 (17-for-88) with three homers, 14 RBIs, 31 strikeouts and a .594 OPS. In the previous 28 games, Reynolds hit .300 (30-for-100) with 10 homers, 27 RBIs, 27 strikeouts and a 1.026 OPS for the Indians.
Reynolds' strikeout rate has spiked over the past few weeks, but Francona said that is not something the team is overly concerned about.
"We really don't talk about it," Francona said. "The one thing I ask him, I just say, 'Hey, go up and take as many good swings as you can.' If he does that, he's going to run into so much damage. And that's what he's doing. There's sometimes he's struck out and I'm like, 'Wow, he just took three of the healthiest swings.' You know that at some point in the game, if he keeps swinging like that, he's going to hit a homer.
"That's what he's been doing. I don't want him to get down about the strikeouts. That's not part of, in my opinion, what he needs to worry about. If he takes good swings, he's so strong and so quick that he's going to do a lot of damage."
Swisher happy with Tribe, grateful for time with Yanks
NEW YORK -- Nick Swisher was not nervous about taking the field at Yankee Stadium on Monday night. Of course, he was in the lineup for the Indians as their first baseman, eliminating a reunion with the right field bleacher creatures.
Swisher's last appearance in right field in the Bronx came in pinstripes and the locals were hard on him for a subpar postseason performance. He would rather not revisit that final forgettable chapter of his otherwise memorable time with the Yankees. Swisher enjoyed his time in New York and he is happy with his newfound leadership role with Cleveland.
"Live in the now, bro," Swisher said.
Swisher spent four seasons with the Yankees, further establishing himself as a great clubhouse presence and consistent on-field performer. When New York made it clear that Swisher would not be back for another year, he explored free agency and landed a four-year, $56 million contract with the Indians that includes a club option for 2017.
Monday marked his first trip back to Yankee Stadium since last October and Swisher was excited to see how fans responded to his return.
"I'm looking forward to it," Swisher said. "I think it's going to be awesome, man. I think it's just one of the greatest places I got the opportunity to play. I know Bald Vinny and them creatures are going to be out there [in the bleachers]. I'm looking forward to seeing all of them."
During his first at-bat in the first inning on Monday, fans at Yankee Stadium cheered for Swisher as his name was announced. After the warm reception, he took a moment to wave to the crowd before batting. Then, in the bottom of the first, fans in the right-field bleachers gave him his own roll call, chanting, "Swisher! Swisher!"
Swisher, 32, had hit .264 with seven home runs, 14 doubles, 20 RBIs and 26 walks in 50 games with the Indians entering Monday's tilt. It has been a performance in line with his four seasons in New York. During that stretch, the switch-hitter posted a .268 batting average with an average of 26 homers and 87 RBIs in 150 games per season.
Swisher said he owed a lot to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman for trading for him after a rough 2008 season in Chicago. He added that he was enjoying seeing the city again, and reconnecting with old friends at the ballpark.
"I've got a lot of smiles going on today," Swisher said. "It's super exciting to be back here for a couple days."
Swisher has admitted multiple times that the Yankees lack of interest in re-signing him hurt to a certain extent.
"I had to do my best to step on," Swisher said. "Obviously, making that step was a little harder than most things I've done in my life, but that's part of the game. This is a business."
That said, Swisher is thrilled to be with the Tribe for the next several years.
"It's just a different chapter in my life," he said. "Being in Cleveland, it's such a family environment over there and such great people running the organization. And, hopefully, [we can] be that resurrecting class that can kind of get us back to where we belong. We've been given a great opportunity over here."
Quote to note
"That'd be awesome. I've been very fortunate in my career. I've gotten the chance to be in the postseason a good amount. To be able to take a team like this there would be the greatest thing on the planet, man. Cleveland's been waiting a long time for a winner."
--Swisher, on trying to help Cleveland win a World Series
• Indians right fielder Drew Stubbs had been in a slump of late, hitting .114 (5-for-44) with no home runs, four RBIs and 19 strikeouts over his past 16 games entering Monday. During that span, Stubbs' season average has dropped to .225 from .261. Stubbs was hitting .202 with a .524 OPS against right-handers compared to .271 with a .830 OPS versus lefties.
"He's faced some tough righties," Francona said. "It's probably a little bit of everything. When you need that ball to drop, it doesn't. But, saying that, one night he struck out three times and then he caught a ball on the warning track. He gets it. He can help us in a lot of different ways. And, hitting down in the order, it's not as glaring."
• Teams have increasingly shifted the defense to play Indians catcher Carlos Santana to pull this season. Santana has responded with a handful of bunts in an effort to beat the shift and convince teams to play him more straight up. It remains to be seen whether Santana's bunt attempts will change the way teams have shifted with him at the plate.
"It'll be interesting. I'm sure it'll be team by team," Francona said. "I do think he's worked really hard at that. You can tell when it's not like a lucky attempt. He's laid down some really good bunts. You'll see his batting average improve because of that."
• Entering Monday's game, the Indians had produced 37 home runs from right-handed batters (fifth most in the American League and eighth most in the Majors). Cleveland had 38 homers from the right side of the plate in all of 2012, marking the fewest in the Major Leagues last season.
• Indians closer Chris Perez, who is on the 15-day disabled list due to tendinitis in his right rotator cuff, might be cleared to resume a throwing program in two to three days. Monday marked Perez's eighth straight day without throwing.
• Left-hander J.C. Romero has opted out of his contract with the Nationals and is in talks with the Indians about a Minor League deal, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com. Romero (on the Minor League disabled list with left shoulder tendinitis ) has not pitched since May 8, but posted a 2.84 ERA with 16 strikeouts and four walks in 13 games with Triple-A Syracuse this season. Romero, who turns 37 on Tuesday, has a 4.16 ERA in 680 career big league games between stints with the Twins, Phillies, Rockies, Cardinals, Red Sox, Angels and Orioles.