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Swisher prepared for a great walk year

Yankees' Nick Swisher warms up for batting practice.

Yankees' Nick Swisher warms up for batting practice. (Feb. 26, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Players in their "walk year" usually respond one of two ways.

Motivated by their impending free agency, they put up huge numbers with the hope and expectation of a big score on the market.

Or they go the other way.

Nick Swisher said he's not sure how his walk year will go in 2012, but he remade his body in the offseason to put himself in the best position possible.

"I don't know yet," Swisher said Sunday of how he'll react. "I'm sure as the season kind of starts up, I'm sure the talk will get a little more and a little more, but I think I'm ready for that. I'm not thinking about that. I've got a great job. I make good money, my wife makes good money. Money's not a big thing for us."

Still, Swisher spent the offseason weight training and eating better. He reported to camp at 199 pounds, down from the 210 he played at last season. He said he reported last season at 205.

"Took my body to the next level," Swisher said. "I expect it to do a lot of things. This is the strongest I've ever been. It's the best-looking I've ever been."

Swisher, 31, laughed.

"I mean physically."

Swisher will make $10.25 million this year after the Yankees picked up an option after the 2011 season, something the rightfielder didn't necessarily take for granted.

And he certainly didn't sound like a player who believes it's a shoo-in that he'll be a Yankee beyond this season.

"I think everybody knows how much I love New York, but if they wouldn't have picked my option up, I think I still would have had a job somewhere," Swisher said. "But I want to be here, man. And for Cash [Brian Cashman] and the guys to bring me back, I couldn't thank them [enough]. At least one more year here, rock out, and just kind of see what happens at the end of the year."

Swisher is hoping for a much better start to this one. In 2011, he was hitting .206 with a .321 on-base percentage and .288 slugging percentage on May 28.

Swisher did finish at .260-.374-.449 -- the highest OBP of his three seasons as a Yankee -- with 23 homers and 85 RBIs. But he went 4-for-19 against the Tigers in the Division Series, continuing his trend of not producing in the postseason as a Yankee, though he hardly was alone last season.

Besides hitting the weights and eating healthier, Swisher said he spent the offseason working "on everything I was bad at."

"I got faster, I throw better, I physically look better," he said. "Working on getting my mind in the right spot."

Which is where it wasn't for at least the first two months last season, a period the usually upbeat Swisher called "frustrating." It's something his manager picked up on. Said Joe Girardi, "I think it wore on him a little bit."

If Swisher has another bad start this season, the questions will take on an added layer beyond a simple slump -- primarily, is the walk-year pressure getting to him?

"You're going to have to test the free-agent market because that's how the Yankees work," Swisher said of the club's general policy of letting contracts expire. "We're just going to cross that bridge when we come to it because I love this place. Everybody knows that. This is the place I want to be.

"At the end of the season, after we're standing out there Nov. 1 after winning the World Series, we'll all party, and then we'll get down to brass tacks."

New York Sports