Slow start of 2011 no issue for Swish in '12

Slow start of 2011 no issue for Swish in '12

BOSTON -- It took Nick Swisher until April 28 last season -- a span of 22 games -- to hit his first home run. He didn't hit his fourth until June 1, when his batting average sat at .215.

At 30 years old in 2011, Swisher knew he had to play better than that for the Yankees to pick up his $10.25 million club option at season's end. He finished the year with 23 homers and a .260 average, and as it played out, he's back on the Yankees for the final year of his contract.

This year, without the pressure of a pending option -- although he'll be staring free agency in the face after this season -- Swisher has felt more relaxed, he has said, and the results on the field have reflected that.

Swisher already has four homers (his fourth coming in the form of a grand slam during Saturday's 15-9 comeback win over the Red Sox), with career highs in slugging percentage (.583) and OPS (.955).

"One April he got off to a hot start, one April he didn't," said manager Joe Girardi, comparing 2011 to '12. "It's just kind of what happens in baseball. Gosh, I think everyone wished they knew why it happens. Because you do everything you could to prevent a guy from getting off to a slow start, but usually over time, it all equals out."

Adding to his value, Swisher has been a more-than-formidable No. 2 hitter when called upon this season, batting second most days against left-handed pitchers, moving usual No. 2 hitter Curtis Granderson down in the order. Out of the No. 2 spot, Swisher has hit .308 with a .438 on-base percentage in 26 at-bats. He took just 40 at-bats out of that spot all of last season.

Swisher has also stepped it up with runners in scoring position, hitting .308 with 19 RBIs in 26 at-bats.

And as far as tough outs go, Swisher is among the most difficult in baseball. He's seeing 4.07 pitches per plate appearance this year, 14th in the American League, and he's hitting .300 when the count is full.

"I'm just trying to go out there and put a good swing on it," Swisher said. "Whether I'm successful or not, that's not my process. My process is everything leading up to that point.

"Whether I get a hit or I don't, that's not what really drives me right now. It's the process of getting myself ready to go up to the plate every single time."

As for feeling less pressure this season, Girardi hasn't noticed.

"Swish is pretty much the same character every day," Girardi said. "If he felt it, we didn't notice it."