Yankees

Nick Swisher In A Good Spot With Free Agency Looming

The Yankees' Nick Swisher is all smiles after hitting a third-inning grand slam against the Rangers at Yankee Stadium. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Yankees’ Nick Swisher is all smiles after hitting a third-inning grand slam against the Rangers at Yankee Stadium. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (AP) — Nick Swisher has found a home in the No. 2 slot in the Yankees’ batting order. Whether he keeps his home in New York beyond this year remains to be seen.

Swisher had three hits in Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox, raising his average to .348 with four homers and 14 RBIs since manager Joe Girardi moved him up to second in the order on Aug. 8.

With his contract expiring at the end of the season, Swisher is raising his profile ahead of hitting the free-agent market.

“It’s a good spot to be in,” he said. “I just feel like I’m going out there and I’ve just kind of been thinking a lot. That word ‘regret’ kind of pops in my head. That’s the last thing I want to have, regardless of whatever my situation is next year, you know, I just want to enjoy this time I have now and just soak it up, see what happens.”

A versatile 31-year-old outfielder and first baseman, Swisher is hitting .272 for the season with 18 homers and 69 RBIs. Before the recent shift, he spent most games in the No. 6 slot.

And he’s become a big part of the team’s personality. A chatty, uplifting clubhouse presence, he always seeming to be “on.”

If there’s any criticism, it’s that Swisher struggles against top pitchers in the postseason. He’s a .160 hitter in exactly 100 postseason at-bats with the Yankees since 2009, with four homers, just five RBIs and 28 strikeouts.

He’s making $10.25 million in the option year of a contract he signed with Oakland in 2007. Thus far, the uncertainty hasn’t appeared to bother him.

“I’ve never gone through something like this. I don’t even really know what to think about, so I’m just trying to enjoy it, man, because this place has been so amazing to me.” he said. “So I figure if I didn’t go out there and give it everything I had, I’d feel bad about that, so, just trying to go out there, man, have some fun, put up quality at-bats every single time and just go from there.”

Other than Swisher, the Yankees’ offense didn’t do much against Jon Lester (7-10), who won consecutive starts for the first time since mid-May.

Curtis Granderson homered in the fourth for the Yankees’ only run, then doubled leading off the seventh only to be stranded on third. New York went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

“Well, it’s hard to win the game when you do that,” manager Joe Girardi said. ‘When you don’t do that, you’re usually going to lose games.”

Adrian Gonzalez hit a two-run homer in the first off David Phelps (3-4), and Yankees nemesis Pedro Ciriaco was 4 for 4, raising his average against New York this year to .517 (15 for 29).

“He’s gotten us all year long,” Girardi said. “It’s unbelievable.”

Making his second spot start while CC Sabathia is on the disabled list, Phelps gave up three runs and seven hits in 6 2-3 innings, struck out seven and walked none. He fanned Cody Ross three times, all on breaking balls.

He didn’t think the pitch to Gonzalez was all that bad.

“It was right where we wanted it. I mean, that ball was down, and off the plate a little bit,” Phelps said. “He’s strong and he just got enough of it. … When he hit it, I didn’t think he got it as well as he did, I thought it was off the end a little bit, but I turned around and saw it go.”

Granderson’s 32nd homer was his 11th off a left-hander.

“He had his cutter working, which is his signature pitch,” he said. “It’s got a lot of movement on it. When it’s able to sweep across as far as it does, it makes it very difficult to hit.”

Boston came right back in the fifth when Ciriaco singled with one out and scored on Nick Punto’s double into the right-field corner.

Punto helped Lester avoid trouble in the fifth. Ichiro Suzuki singled with one out and stole second, and Derek Jeter hit a hard one-hopper to third. The ball bounced off Punto’s glove into the air, and he grabbed the ball with his bare hand and threw to first for the out. Swisher then struck out on a check swing.

Ciriaco doubled in the ninth, sending Scott Podsednik to third, and Cody Eppley threw a run-scoring wild pitch.

New York lost for just the fourth time in 11 games. Phelps appears headed back to the bullpen, with Sabathia saying he’s set to come off the disabled list and start Friday at Cleveland. Sabathia threw a bullpen session Saturday and the left-hander said his pitching elbow, which had been sore, is fine.

“Our hope is that he can pitch Friday. That’s our hope,” Girardi said. “But I want to give ourselves a little leeway, if he feels that he needs an extra day. That’s why I’m not being committal to it.”

NOTES: Craig Breslow relieved in the eighth and induced an inning-ending, double-play grounder from Cano, Ryan Lavarnway was behind the plate, and according to STATS LLC and baseballreference.com, the only previous all-Yale battery was in 1883 when the Philadelphia Athletics’ Jack Jones pitched to Al Hubbard. The Red Sox said they had been talking with Yale in recent days and had not yet been able to confirm that. … The AL East will meet the NL West in interleague play next year, according to the draft schedule MLB sent to teams. The Yankees are to play San Francisco and Arizona at home and to travel to Los Angeles, San Diego and Colorado.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)