CLEVELAND -- While the majority of people around him fret, Indians first baseman Nick Swisher isn’t sweating out his slow start at the plate. Swisher, who had a down year last season, entered Tuesday batting .197 with two home runs and eight RBIs in 19 games. He had struck out a team-high 20 times in 76 at-bats through Monday.
“I’m not worried at all,” Swisher said. “Obviously it was a slow start. All it boils down to is wins and losses. The reason why I came here was to win.”
Manager Terry Francona has seen signs of Swisher emerging from the slump, including the first baseman’s pair of opposite-field doubles Monday night in a 4-3 win over the Royals.
“As a hitter, when you hit the ball with authority the other way, that’s a pretty good sign that you’re doing some things right,” Francona said. “That means you’re in position to hit other pitches also, which is really good.”
Swisher has been taking extra batting practice in an effort to shake the funk. Francona thinks his veteran will.
“Sometimes early in April you’ve got to fight through the elements, the inconsistent at-bats ... that’s just part of the game,” he said. “That’s why you see so often, guys across the league, fighting into May and June to get their average where they’re accustomed.”
Francona said Michael Bourn’s struggles since leaving the disabled list have not been unexpected. Bourn, who went just 3-for-23 in his first five games back, missed a month with a hamstring strain that he sustained during spring training.
“He’ll play his way into feeling good,” Francona said. “The best way for us to get Bourny back to being Bourny is to play him.”
Bourn’s hamstring hasn’t been an issue since his return.
“He’s got a couple stolen bases and he’s moving real well,” Francona said.
Entering Tuesday night, just 1 1/2 games separated all five teams in the AL Central Division, with the Indians holding down last place behind first-place Detroit.
“You look at the standings, everybody’s all bunched up, which is probably pretty fortunate for us, because we didn’t get off to the greatest start,” Francona said. “It’s looks to me like everybody really got better, which I’m not pleased about, but I think it makes for good baseball for the fans.”
Francona turned 55 Tuesday.
“I don’t think I feel a day over 75,” joked Francona, who was born in Aberdeen, S.D.
What a zoo
Monday night wasn’t the only time a squirrel -- or other creature(s) -- has interfered with play at Progressive Field.
Gulls that circle the stadium throughout the season distracted Royals outfielder Coco Crisp on a game-winning hit from Shin-Soo Choo on June 11, 2009, while the midges made national news during Game 2 of the ALDS on Oct. 5, 2007, against the Yankees.
A squirrel also entered the playing field during a regular-season game against the Yankees on Aug. 25, 2004.
There was also the “Rally Chicken” from last season, but Indians players brought that on the field prior to a game.
Triple-A Columbus second baseman Jose Ramirez enjoyed his first career multihomer game Monday in a 6-4 win over Toledo, hitting a pair and driving in three runs during a 4-for-5 effort. Ramirez, a non-drafted free-agent acquisition from the Dominican Republic in 2009, entered Tuesday batting .333 with three homers and 10 RBIs in 16 games.
(Bullet) Double-A Akron third baseman Giovanny Urshela was named Cleveland’s minor league player of the week (April 14-20). A non-drafted free-agent acquisition from Colombia in 2008, Urshela, 22, hit .353 (6-for-17) with a homer, nine RBIs and a .950 OPS over the span. He entered Tuesday batting .293 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 16 games.
- At 4.99, the Indians’ starting rotation owned the third-highest ERA in the majors (second-highest in AL) through Monday.
- Entering Tuesday night, Cleveland pitchers had not allowed a homer in 39 consecutive innings.
- Tonight, 7:05, STO; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM. Masterson (0-0, 4.98) vs. Vargas (2-0, 1.24).