Three and a half hours before first pitch, Nick Swisher’s eyes lit up and he proclaimed he was excited to return to the starting lineup from an eight-game absence due to a left hip flexor.
Once he got to talking more about it, Swisher realized that it was in his best interests to conservatively monitor his comeback and sit him longer than necessary. That was the context of Swisher’s daily consultations with manager Joe Girardi and the team’s training staff.
“I think anytime you’re feeling a strain or things like that, you’re kind of on that fence of whether it can be a week or eight days,” Swisher said. “It could be if you play through it, it could be three or four weeks. So I appreciate the fact that guys are looking out for me and they want for the long haul.”
Swisher returned last night as the designated hitter, a position he is batting 4-for-18 in this year and 19-for-70 (.271) in four seasons as a Yankee.
Swisher said he can play the field and when he ran Saturday he estimated the hip was about 85 to 90 percent or a half-step away from normal.
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The injury was the third slight leg ailment for Swisher. He had one in spring training and another in the first week of May.
The Yankees have lost eight of the 14 games Swisher has missed due to injury this season. In those contests, five have been decided by two runs or fewer and not having the switch-hitting outfielder has made it easier for opposing managers to match up their left-handed relievers.
“It hurts us,” Girardi said. “I think we have to make more moves and it’s easier for clubs to match up their left-handers against us. We’ve been able to score some runs in the last three days without him but we do miss him. We miss that presence.”
As for the rest of the season, Swisher said that the injuries were not related to his slight increase in muscle in the offseason, but that he might have to spend more time getting massages and stretching.
“I kind of changed my body up a lot from last year to this year and it’s kind of led to a lot of bumps and bruises, I guess you can say. I feel like I need to do more stretching and a lot more massages so that I don’t have to deal with this at all.
“I came in ready to go. Injuries are a part of the season and for myself, I’ve been a pretty healthy guy. I take a lot of pride in that, so when I get knocked down for a week or something, it feels like a month. I’ve got to take care of the temple.”
Chamberlain continues high-velocity rehab
Joba Chamberlain threw 30 pitches during his latest rehab appearance Sunday in Double-A Trenton against Harrisburg in an Eastern League game.
He entered the game with two outs in the seventh inning and threw nine pitches to two hitters.
Chamberlain threw seven strikes in the seventh and reportedly reached 98 mph on the radar gun while mixing in his off-speed pitches.
In the eighth, he struck out the side after allowing a leadoff single. In that inning, he threw 21 pitches and recorded three swings and misses.
Chamberlain is closing in on the end of his 30-day minor league rehab period. As he inches closer to returning from Tommy John surgery and an ankle injury, the Yankees are not looking too far ahead.
“I think as a player, it’s important to take it day-by-day,” Girardi said. “There is a finish. There is a 30-day period. He knew that and we were aware of that. So you don’t want to rush a player because you can’t in a sense rush a player because something happens to someone else. You have to look at each guy independently and what we feel they said.
“Joba, if you remember, hasn’t pitched in a while. He hasn’t pitched in over a year at this level, so we have to make sure he’s prepared and that way if we do want to change the schedule. Or if we feel he’s ahead or he’s behind where he should be, we’re not always answering questions about red flags. So it gives us some leeway to make decisions based on what we see and what a player feels as opposed to just a hard schedule.”
Francona’s presence a non-issue
On Saturday afternoon, former Red Sox manager Terry Francona entered the clubhouse and engaged in a conversation with some of his former players.
Francona, who is handling the color commentary for Sunday’s ESPN broadcast, was invited over by second baseman Dustin Pedroia. So when asked about it in his pregame press conference, Valentine offered a sarcastic initial response before giving his real answer.
“Oh I yelled at him as soon as he came into my office and told him don’t ever do that again,” Valentine said. “I said, hey how you’re doing. We didn’t bring it up.
“I didn’t think it was any big deal. I didn’t see it. I wasn’t partaking in the conversation but what’s the big deal?”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.