When Nick Swisher originally signed with the Indians this winter, it was as the starting right fielder. Shin-Soo Choo had already been traded and Mark Reynolds had been signed to be the first baseman. There was still a huge hole at DH however, that was taken care of when the Michael Bourn signing moved everyone over a spot (Drew Stubbs to right, Swisher to first, Reynolds to DH). This helped the Indians defense get better at three different positions (CF, RF and 1B) and bolstered the offense as well.
Back in the present, Swisher played each of the first 10 games at either first or DH (with Reynolds on first), but the addition of Jason Giambi to the roster forced a little moving around and Swisher played what was supposed to be a rare start in right field on April 14th. In that game Bourn sliced open his finger, knocking him out for at least two weeks and bringing the Indians lineup to look like the one originally described.
Since then, Swisher has played four games at first, five in right and DH'd three times. This is similar to what was originally expected of him and he has played well enough on defense so everyone should be happy. Except, the increased distance that needs to be thrown from right field compared to first base has caused Swisher some troubles and he has now missed two games in a row due to soreness in his left shoulder. The player the Indians signed to start in right field, possibly for the next four seasons, couldn't even play six games there before hurting himself to the point he needed to miss games.
Chances are, Bourn will be back within the week and Swisher won't be needed to play regularly in the outfield, and that one or two starts out there won't kill him, but it does pose a problem for the Indians. The Indians haven't carried a fourth outfielder to this point in 2013, because of Swisher and Ryan Raburn's versatility, but if Swisher is unable to play right field in a pinch, they will need to bring in someone new. Ezequiel Carrera is now playing in Philadelphia, while Tim Fedroff remains an internal option. While this may be a decent emergency solution, it will ruin the Indians interleague strategy that would feature Reynolds at first with Swisher in right while the DH role is not available.
Don't expect to see much more of Swisher in the outfield this season and even less in the years to come. The Indians simply can't afford to injur their $48 million dollar man, so they will do whatever they need to to keep him out of harms way and if that means keeping him in the infield, that is where he will stay. The scariest part of the whole thing? Now when the Indians need to bolster their lineup, they will be replacing Lonnie Chisenhall at third base with Mark Reynolds instead of replacing Stubbs in right. This means even more of one of the leagues worst defensive third basemen playing third on a much more regular basis. Justin Masterson should be very afraid.
Swisher where he is most comfortable.
5/2 Update: The Indians have decided to bring up the extra outfielder already, announcing today that Ezequiel Carrera was claimed off waivers from the Phillies and will be added to the 25 man roster on Friday. This move further goes to show that Swisher will not be playing in the outfield much more this year.