Swisher learning the ropes in outfield

Swisher learning the ropes in outfield

NEW YORK -- Long before Robinson Cano launched a game-winning pellet into the sky over Yankee Stadium on Friday night, Nick Swisher made it possible by unloading a slippery seed to home plate with deadly accuracy.

Swisher made one of the best defensive plays of the night Friday under less-than-ideal conditions, with the entire contest being played under cool, wet conditions that felt almost nothing like late summer.

As CC Sabathia tried to escape the seventh inning, Gordon Beckham lined a sharp single to right field that sent the tying run around and home. Swisher scooped the ball and saw slow-footed catcher Ramon Castro also being waved in, and he fired a strong throw that preserved the tie.

"It was like throwing a bar of soap," Swisher said. "I was just lucky, I guess. But I'll take it."

Swisher has had a mixed bag of results in the outfield this season with the Yankees, turning in some splendid defensive plays along with a few bloopers -- missed diving catches and air-mailed throws to the screen behind home plate among them.

Swisher said the sharp toss home to catcher Jose Molina, picked clean and applied to the sliding Castro, was no fluke.

"I've really been trying to concentrate on the defensive end of things," Swisher said. "I don't like coming out of games, and early in the season, it happened late in games that I would get a defensive replacement. I've really been trying to take a lot of pride in the defensive end so I can stay out there for all nine."

Swisher said that he has been scoring a little guidance on the topic from a pair of sources that might be less-than-expected -- the Yankees' pitching coach and one of the team's two left-handed relievers.

"Dave Eiland has been on me, saying, 'You've got a lot more in the tank,'" Swisher said. "I did a couple of things mechanically, and Phil Coke has helped me out a little bit. I just feel like I'm getting on top of the ball a little better. My ball is staying more straight and not tailing or cutting. In general, it's helped out a lot."

Then again, perhaps it should not be that surprising -- when the Yankees' final season statistics are printed, Swisher's name will be listed among the pitchers, having hurled a scoreless inning against the Rays in an April blowout. So Swisher has no trepidation about approaching any of the bullpen coaches or hurlers for tips.

"That's the one great thing about this team," Swisher said. "We have such great relationships throughout the locker room. If I need some help on something, who better to go to than the man who actually teaches throwing the baseball?"

Pitching matchup
CWS: RHP Jose Contreras (5-12, 5.09)
Contreras will get at least a one-start reprieve on Saturday afternoon, after Guillen announced the veteran's move to the bullpen following Monday's debacle in Boston. Contreras gave up seven runs on four hits in 2 2/3 innings, walking three and striking out one against the Red Sox, but only one of those runs was earned because of an error committed by the pitcher. Contreras has a 2-5 career mark against his former team, with a 4.20 ERA.

NYY: RHP Sergio Mitre (2-1, 6.82 ERA)
Mitre will return to the rotation after being skipped one turn. The right-hander last pitched in two innings of relief on Aug. 21 at Boston, allowing four runs on four hits, but his last start produced a victory on Aug. 15 at Seattle. Mitre hurled 5 1/3 innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on seven hits that day, walking two and striking out three to log his second win since coming back from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. Mitre has compiled a 6.04 ERA in six starts this year, allowing 45 hits and 23 runs (19 earned) in 28 1/3 innings while walking eight and striking out 18. Opponents are hitting .363 against him.

Tidbits
The Yankees improved to 18-6 in their past 24 games on Friday, and they are a Major League-best 29-11 since the All-Star break. ... The Bombers have won 17 of their past 21 games at Yankee Stadium. ... The Yankees are 36-1 when holding their opponent to two runs or fewer, and they have won nine of the past 11 games vs. the White Sox in the Bronx. ... New York scored first in each of its past five games and seven of its past eight contests, and is 52-16 (.764) this season when scoring the game's first run, marking the best such winning percentage in the American League. ... With A.J. Burnett's 12 strikeouts in Thursday's loss vs. Texas, Yankees starters have combined for 22 strikeouts over their past two games, marking their most strikeouts in back-to-back games since May 18-19, 2002, vs. Minnesota (also 22 strikeouts; Ted Lilly, nine, Roger Clemens, 13). ... The Yankees have combined to strike out 29 batters over their past two games, marking their most strikeouts in back-to-back games since July 18-19, 2008, vs. Oakland (30). ... Derek Jeter hit his third leadoff homer of the season and the 22nd of his career on Friday, breaking a tie with Alfonso Soriano (21) for sole possession of second place in franchise history, trailing only Rickey Henderson (24). ... Hughes owns a 1.23 ERA in 29 relief appearances. His 1.47 ERA since the All-Star break leads all AL qualifiers.

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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
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On television
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On radio
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Up next
• Sunday: Yankees (Joba Chamberlain, 8-4, 4.34) vs. White Sox (Freddy Garcia, 0-1, 6.75), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Yankees (Andy Pettitte, 11-6, 4.18) at Orioles (Jeremy Guthrie, 9-12, 5.26), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Yankees (A.J. Burnett, 10-8, 4.10) at Orioles (David Hernandez, 4-6, 4.24), 7:05 p.m. ET

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