04/08/2013 11:05 PM ET
Swisher misses friendships forged in Bronx
By Jordan Bastian and Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- Nick Swisher has embraced the leadership role that the Indians offered him over the offseason. Over the past few years in New York, he was more of a complementary presence in a clubhouse packed with superstars.
It has been much different in Cleveland, but Swisher has fond memories of his time in the Bronx.
"Those guys over there, the city of the New York, the New York Yankees organization," Swisher said, "I could not have been more honored to be a part of that. The last four years have been amazing. I'm just trying to take everything that I've learned from over there and bring it in here."
On Monday, the Yankees were in town to open a four-game clash with the Indians. After leaving the Yankees via free agency and signing a four-year contract worth $56 million with the Tribe, Swisher laughed at the coincidence of matching up against his former team in his first home game with his new club.
"How about that, man?" Swisher beamed. "I've been talking to these guys for the past week, man. I'm so excited to see these guys. These guys were a major part of my life for the last four years. I've got a lot of friends over there. It still doesn't mean I don't want to try to give it to them."
In his four seasons with the Yankees, Swisher hit .268 with 105 home runs and 349 RBIs, averaging 150 games per year. Over the winter, New York offered him a one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer, which he declined to test the open market. While Swisher weighed his options, the Yankees never came back with a multiyear offer.
"What it boils down to is they didn't come to me," Swisher said. "They didn't even offer anything. In a situation like that, as much as I love that city and as hard as it was to leave, I had to do what was best for my family and for myself."
Swisher admitted that the lack of interest from New York stung.
"It hurt," Swisher said. "That team was amazing. The city was amazing. You [reporters] were amazing to me. My teammates were so great to me. When you are in a place for four years -- that's a long time in baseball years -- you develop some relationships, and sometimes when you leave, that's not exactly what you want to do.
"But the way that Cleveland has come in and approached the situation, they've just treated me like a king over here. I could not be more honored to be putting the uniform on for them every single day."
Asked if he paid attention to the way the Yankees have addressed filling holes on their roster -- some of which were created by injuries -- Swisher hesitated with his response.
"Let me answer this the correct way," said Swisher, who then paused to collect his thoughts for seven seconds. "I'm not part of that team anymore, and I've got to worry about this squad. This is my team now, and I've got to do the best that I can to bring my 'A' game every single day. We've got enough stuff to worry about over there."
Tribe relieved; Santana's thumb merely bruised
CLEVELAND -- The Indians received good news a few hours after a left thumb injury forced catcher Carlos Santana from Monday's 11-6 loss to the Yankees: X-rays taken after the game were negative, revealing that he sustained nothing more than a bruise in the ninth inning of Cleveland's home opener. The slugging catcher is day to day.
Santana got crossed up on a pitch from closer Chris Perez and sustained a contusion after being struck on the thumb while trying to catch the baseball. Santana was in obvious pain and exited the game after being attended to briefly by manager Terry Francona and a team trainer.
"Obviously, he's going to be sore, at best," Francona said before the results of the X-rays were known.
Santana was replaced behind the dish by backup catcher Lou Marson, who was still dealing with some lingering neck stiffness from his collision at the plate with Tampa Bay's Desmond Jennings in Saturday's game. Marson was feeling better as of Monday afternoon and was deemed fine to catch by Francona, if necessary.
Losing the switch-hitting Santana for any significant length of time would have been a big blow for the Indians in this young season. With his 1-for-2 showing in Monday's loss, the catcher is hitting .500 (13-for-26) with two home runs, four walks, five runs scored and five RBIs through seven games this season.
Last year, the 26-year-old Santana hit .252 with 18 homers, 27 doubles, 76 RBIs and 91 walks in 143 games for Cleveland. He had a breakout year in 2011, hitting 27 homers to go along with 79 RBIs and 97 walks.
Pronk homers in first at-bat back in Cleveland
CLEVELAND -- Travis Hafner said that he did not have any trouble navigating the roads to Progressive Field on Monday morning, and most importantly, he remembered to head for the visitors' clubhouse and not the familiar entrance for the home team.
"It's a little strange -- you're used to being over there for the last 10 years," Hafner said, nodding toward the third-base dugout. "It's great to be back here for Opening Day. It's going to be a great atmosphere, and I'm excited to be here."
Before receiving a rousing ovation during introductions, Hafner, 35, said that he expected a positive reception from the Indians' fan base when stepping to the plate against his former team, but he acknowledged that his new employer might make it difficult for Clevelanders to send cheers his way for very long.
"I think it'll be good," Hafner said. "The fans have always treated me great. At the same time, I play for the Yankees now, so we'll see. I'm looking forward to it. It'll be good to be back here playing."
It didn't take Hafner long to draw some boos from the Progressive Field crowd, slugging a three-run homer in the top of the first inning off Ubaldo Jimenez to break a scoreless tie.
Hafner signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Yankees in January and said that his transition to New York has been an easy one. The Indians expressed some late interest in bringing Hafner back, but the slugger said he had already made up his mind about heading to the Yankees.
"I'd never gone through [free agency] before," Hafner said. "You really go into it not knowing what to expect. I didn't really hear much until January, and then it started to pick up a little bit. Once I found out that the Yankees had interest, it was a really good fit for me. It worked out well."
Even though he no longer plays for the Indians, Hafner said that he is pleased to see many fans in Cleveland excited about the team.
"They obviously had a great offseason, a lot of roster turnover," Hafner said. "They've been playing well. I think there's a buzz in town about the team. It's good to see them back doing well."
Hafner hit 200 home runs over 10 seasons with the Indians, setting club records with 187 homers and 650 RBIs as a designated hitter. He said his fondest memories are from Cleveland's playoff run in 2007, when the club defeated the Yankees in the American League Division Series before falling to the Red Sox in a seven-game AL Championship Series.
"I think being in the playoffs was obviously the big one that stands out," Hafner said. "The second half of that 2007 season -- going down the stretch, winning the division, playing in front of sellouts -- the fans were into it. Being in the playoffs, that was just a great experience."
Francona opposes blanket rule for collisions
CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona had no problem with the home-plate collision that forced Cleveland catcher Lou Marson out of Saturday's game against the Rays. If they are clean baseball plays, Francona does not have much of an issue with collisions at the plate in general.
There has been a recent public debate about whether such collisions, which have the potential to cause concussions, should be eliminated from baseball. Francona does not believe a rule could be devised to properly regulate such plays.
"I don't know how you'd do that," Francona said on Monday. "I understand the point. I'm all for nobody ever having a head injury. But I just think when it's been said, it hasn't been thought through enough. If you say that -- no collisions -- you're putting a lot of baserunners in a horrible position. Because catchers, on instinct, sometimes not just instinct, the ball takes them to the plate, and what's a baserunner to do? I just think you need to think it through.
"If you don't want to have a collision, instruct your catcher to move. That's really easy, but you can't make a rule. The rule is the catcher can't block the plate until he has the ball. For the very most part, that's when you see guys get hit. They're the gritty guys, but they try to block the plate before they have the ball, and there's a bobble, or they get in late, and they can't brace themselves. That's where you see the problems.
"Part of it is it's the game. I agree, it'd be great if nobody ever has head injuries. But if that's how you feel as an organization, just instruct your [catchers] to move."
Tampa Bay's Desmond Jennings bowled over Marson on a play in the third inning of Cleveland's 6-0 loss to the Rays on Saturday. Marson held onto the ball, but he was eventually removed from the game for precautionary reasons. The Indians' backup catcher said on Monday that he was feeling better but still had some stiffness when turning his head from side to side.
Francona said Marson could catch, if needed.
"He's doing better; he's doing OK," Francona said. "His neck is stiff, but he's moving around a lot better."
Quote to note
"We're six games in right now. We've already faced two Cy Young Award winners. We're feeling pretty good about where we are right now. Today is obviously an exciting game. It's exciting for me."
• Prior to Monday's home opener, Swisher presented a check for $75,000 on behalf of his foundation, Swish's Wishes, to the Providence House, a local crisis nursery that protects children from abuse and neglect.
"Providence House is thrilled to receive this incredibly generous gift from Nick and his foundation," Natalie Leek-Nelson, president and CEO of Providence House, said in a statement. "Nick is both an amazing player and person who shares our passion for helping children in crisis."
• Indians sinkerballer Justin Masterson defeated Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (last year's National League Cy Young Award winner as a member of the Mets) on Tuesday, and Rays lefty David Price (last year's American League Cy Young Award winner) on Sunday. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Masterson joined Bruce Hurst (1989) and Shane Reynolds (2003) as the only pitchers to defeat both reigning Cy Young winners in the same season. Masterson is the first to do so in consecutive starts.
• Indians veteran Jason Giambi, who began the season on the 15-day disabled list with a lower back injury, is scheduled to be activated prior to Tuesday's game against the Yankees. Giambi, a part-time designated hitter and pinch-hitter, will not be in the starting lineup against New York lefty Andy Pettitte, but he will be available off the bench.
• Francona noted that left-hander Scott Kazmir (on the 15-day DL with a right rib-cage strain) played catch up to a distance of 75 feet on Monday. Kazmir, who won the fifth starter role this spring, will be eligible to be activated on April 17.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.