Swisher hopes to trim away early woes
New haircut, lineup spot for slumping White Sox slugger
ST. PETERSBURG -- Nick Swisher sported a new haircut and a new spot in the White Sox batting order for Saturday night's contest at Tropicana Field.
Both moves were designed to help the switch-hitter break loose from season-long offensive doldrums, which have dropped his average to .203.
"I don't know what else to do," said Swisher of the new look, featuring most of the hair on both sides of his head closely cut. "I mean, I feel good. The last couple of games, we've faced some great pitching, but I guess this is just a fresh new start."
That fresh start comes with a move to first base. Paul Konerko moved to designated hitter, as Jim Thome received a night off against tough left-hander Scott Kazmir. Swisher also was placed in the ninth slot in the White Sox attack, hitting there for the first time this season.
Swisher has just three hits in 16 at-bats on this current road trip and six hits in his last 37 at-bats, and he has gone 24-for-136 in his last 38 games. Manager Ozzie Guillen made the move to let Swisher relax and focus on the game.
"That's exactly it," Guillen said. "The last thing he can do is to start feeling the pressure because he's not hitting. That's not going to happen. It won't help the ballclub. At the beginning of Spring Training, we talked about him just to be himself.
"Don't try to change anything at the plate. Sometimes you need a break mentally more than physically. I don't care how much you work at extra hitting, extra flips, show up early -- mentally you aren't prepared for that. I need him to have better at-bats. Hopefully, he can relax a little bit more."
A move to No. 9 brought Swisher the same thought process as his manager.
"Hitting in the nine-hole may be the best thing to happen," Swisher said. "Just say, 'You know what, just go out and play, don't worry about everything.'"
When asked if he had ever been through a slump like this current one, Swisher said, "Not this long, no." When Guillen was asked if there was a point where he would have to think about benching Swisher, he said he didn't know. But he added that the team believes in Swisher and just wants him to get his confidence back.
Being in first place, though, has helped Swisher get through the extremely slow start.
"Obviously, if we were in a little different spot, it would be a little tougher for me," Swisher said. "The one thing that has been great is my teammates have been behind me the entire time.
"Telling me to keep my head up ... patting me on the back, telling me, 'It's OK. It's going to end right here.' It's just a tough time to go through, but to try and look at it in some kind of positive way, this will make me a better player, going though something like this, because this has been one of the hardest things I've ever had to go through."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.