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Swisher free of negative thoughts heading into '15

After pair of knee surgeries, veteran eager to contribute to Tribe's playoff pursuit

CLEVELAND -- Nick Swisher says he has done a lot of soul searching this offseason. After a pair of knee surgeries in August, there was little else for the Indians veteran to do than think about everything that went wrong last year and how he can change things going forward.

Standing in front of his locker on Friday night, Swisher sounded like he was mentally cleansed and ready to prove any doubters wrong in the 2015 season and beyond. First and foremost, though, the switch-hitter needs to prove this spring that he is healthy and at full strength before Cleveland can clear him for a spot on the Opening Day roster.

"Where I am now -- mind, body and soul, man -- I'm just excited to get back to playing," Swisher said on the eve of Tribe Fest at Progressive Field. "If you play long enough and you play hard enough, something is going to happen at some point. I just wish it wouldn't have happened the way it did."

Video: [email protected]: Francona on shutting down Swisher

The 34-year-old Swisher endured a career-worst season last year, hitting .208 with eight home runs, 42 RBIs and a .608 OPS in 97 injury-marred games. He played through knee issues for much of the season and eventually underwent surgery on both knees on Aug. 20. Swisher has since admitted that the operations should have taken place much earlier in the year.

A major reason behind Swisher continuing to try to play through the pain was the fact that the Indians had invested $56 million in him in a four-year contract, which includes a vesting option worth $14 million for the 2017 season. Swisher chose to ignore clear signs of a larger health problem, because he did not want to let the team down.

"When you're waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and you've got to crawl to the bathroom," Swisher said, "that probably should've been something where I really should've said to myself, 'Something's wrong.' Now, it's like I guess my whole thought process was, this organization paid a lot of money for me to come over here and be on the field. And, whether I was healthy or I wasn't, man, I wanted to be out there every single day.

"Maybe that was the right call -- maybe it wasn't. I'm not one to second guess myself or anybody else, but I learned a lot from that. Just with where I am right now in my career, I've got three more years left on this deal, man. I can promise you these next three years, man, I'm going to have fun and I'm going to be the guy I know I can be."

Swisher, who has spent this offseason in New Orleans, said he has spent a significant amount of time poring over film to study his swing mechanics in preparation for the '15 season. He added that he has shed 15 pounds -- he admits to showing up to camp too heavy last year -- and was recently cleared to resume running. Swisher hopes to be able to play right field, but he is willing to slot in as the designated hitter or at first base, if needed

Being ready in time for Opening Day is his goal, but he plans on playing things smart.

"I think that we're going back to, 'Whatever the team needs,'" Swisher said. "Instead of, 'What's best for me?', I'm here to do what's best for the team. I've done a lot of soul searching this offseason, man, and have gone through a lot of things. When you get banged up for the first time in your career, you do a lot of thinking.

"So, I think just with where I'm at right now, I'm just here to be a piece of the puzzle. I'm excited to be back. I'm excited to get back on the field and do what I know I can for this team."

Asked if he was heading into the coming season with a chip on his shoulder, Swisher smiled.

"The chip is gone," Swisher said. "I'm not going to stress about things anymore. I'm going to go out there and play the game that I know how and the game that I love every day, because when you're going through those tough times, the love and the passion for the game start to go away a little bit. You have to find something inside yourself to bring all that back. Whatever it was, I found it and I have it again and I could not be more happy for that."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.
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