Swisher hopes he's found home

Swisher hopes he's found home

OAKLAND -- When Nick Swisher cleared the fence on Sunday, slugging a two-run homer to dead center at Safeco Field in Seattle, it marked the fifth consecutive season that he has sent 20 or more blasts into the seats.

There's nothing the switch-hitter would like to change about that, except for this -- Swisher is wearing his third uniform in three years. As he plays through his first season with the Yankees, he hopes his next 20 homers will also come in New York colors.

"I think it's pretty cool, just getting that opportunity," Swisher said. "I've been bouncing around from team to team the last couple of years, but knock on wood, hopefully I've found a home. I really feel honored to be part of this tradition."

Swisher played his first four seasons with the Athletics, belting his first 80 home runs, before suiting up for the White Sox last season and cracking 24 dingers.

Though Swisher is hitting just .242 in 111 games this year for New York, the numbers go beyond batting average. He has driven in 64 runs and is tied for the American League lead with 75 walks entering play on Monday.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Swisher has given him about what was expected. While Swisher clashed with former skipper Ozzie Guillen in Chicago, Girardi said that Guillen did have positive things to say after the Yankees acquired Swisher in a November swap.

"I knew that he was an on-base guy that took a lot of walks and had power," Girardi said. "I talked to Ozzie at the Winter Meetings, and he said that he was a better defender than he got credit for, wherever you put him.

"I expected production. I wasn't exactly sure how we were going to use all the people that we had, but I knew that I was going to get him at-bats and he would provide depth at a lot of places."

In what now plays as a forgettable piece of trivia, Swisher was originally being touted as the Yankees' starting first baseman for a period of time.

That changed when Mark Teixeira was signed to an eight-year, $180 million contract -- just like one of the players dealt for Swisher, Wilson Betemit, had been envisioned as the Yankees' starting third baseman after Alex Rodriguez opted out of his contract during the 2007 World Series.

The Yankees can't argue with the outcome, though they weren't exactly sure where Swisher would fit in. Xavier Nady won the starting right-field job in Spring Training, but would not make it through the month of April, eventually requiring season-ending Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery.

Swisher was called upon and has responded, especially lately, homering in six of his past 11 games on the road. He became the first Yankee to hit at least 17 of his first 20 home runs on the road, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

"I need to start hitting some of those babies at home, and we'd be all right," Swisher said. "I'm thinking August and September might be my months. I've just got to stay with my game plan, and it's something I've been working on. When we get on the road, my confidence level boosts up. I think it's more of a mental thing."

Swisher headed into Monday's series opener at Oakland having reached base safely in each of his past 25 games, marking the second-longest stretch of his career -- the only longer one being a span of 36 games from April 7-May 19, 2006, with the A's.

His current string is the second longest in the Major Leagues, tied with Rafael Furcal of the Dodgers and trailing Nick Markakis (36) of the Orioles. Swisher said he wasn't aware of that factoid, but he knew things were going well, which is enough.

"I just want to go out there every time and be a tough out," Swisher said. "I think that, as of late, I've been doing that. When I'm up there seeing four, five, six pitches an at-bat, that's when I'm really seeing the ball and feeling good.

"You've got to keep passing that torch. Wherever you hit in the lineup on this team, you've got a chance to drive in some runs. You just want to keep it going, because right now, this is the most fun I've ever had playing the game of baseball."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.