First Pitch: Salute to Swisher

April, 8, 2013
4/08/13
6:00
AM ET
CLEVELAND -- For four years, the Yankees got this kind of annual production out of their right fielder -- a .268 batting average, a .367 OBP, 26 home runs and 87 RBIs.

Then Nick Swisher became a free agent and the Yankees let him walk.

Six games into their first Swish-less season since 2008, this is what the Yankees have gotten out of their right fielders: a .143 batting average, a .195 OBP, no home runs and one RBI.

[+] EnlargeNick Swisher
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsNick Swisher
Yes, it is ridiculously early in the season to be looking at the stats, but the reality is neither Ichiro Suzuki nor Brennan Boesch, nor the two of them combined, are likely to come close to putting up the kind of numbers Swisher put up for the Yankees between 2009 and 2012.

The decision to let Swisher walk was purely a financial one -- they never even considered trying to match the four-year, $56 million deal, plus a $14 million option year, Swisher got from the Cleveland Indians.

And in all honesty, Swisher's repeated inability to play well in the postseason was a serious hindrance to his continuing to play for the Yankees at any price.

But when the Yankees arrive at Progressive Field on Monday for four games against the Indians and see Swisher, it will be hard to resist wondering how the Yankees hope to replace Swisher's production with the collection of outfielders they are carrying now.

Of all the players the Yankees lost to free agency this year -- Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones, Eric Chavez and Swisher -- it seems pretty obvious that the loss of Swish, during the regular season at least, will be the hardest to overcome.

Even if you cringed every time a ball was hit toward him, or grew tired of his overly ebullient personality, you never grew tired of watching his patient, selective and usually productive at-bats.

I can tell you right now, Swisher will be delighted to see all of his old teammates, and he will be extremely entertaining in his pregame meeting with the Yankees beat writers who he always got along so well with. I can even approximate pretty closely the exact words he will say.

But none of that is important. What is important is whether the Yankees, so depleted at so many positions, can win consistently without a right fielder who, from April 1 to Sept. 30 anyway, could be counted on to give them .269-26-87.

QUESTION: Do you think the Yankees made a mistake letting Swisher go? And if so, who on the current roster can take up the slack?

UP NOW: My column on how CC Sabathia, the Yankees' ace, outpitched Justin Verlander, the Tigers' ace, and pulled the Yankees out of the abyss they were about to tumble into. Also, postgame notes, including one on the newly clean-shaven member of the bullpen.

ON DECK: The Yankees are the guests of honor at their third home opener of the season, playing the bad guys at the Indians' 4:05 p.m. opener. Hiroki Kuroda, whose first start of the season was cut short when a line drive clipped his middle finger in the second inning of Game 2 against the Red Sox, gives it another shot against RHP Ubaldo Jimenez.

The clubhouse opens at 12:30 p.m. and I'll be there, with the lineups shortly after opening, followed by pregame notes about an hour before first pitch. So check in throughout the afternoon and as always, thanks for reading.
Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Yangervis Solarte
BA HR RBI R
.373 1 9 5
OTHER LEADERS
HRC. Beltran 4
RBIC. Beltran 9
RA. Soriano 9
OPSY. Solarte 1.017
WC. Sabathia 2
ERAM. Pineda 1.00
SOM. Tanaka 28

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