Notes: Who's on first? Swisher (for now)
Buck enjoys initial Opening Day; Geren remembers his first
SEATTLE -- Before the A's signed Shannon Stewart in the days leading up to Spring Training, Nick Swisher was penciled in to start the 2007 season in left field.
When Stewart, hampered by foot injuries in recent years, proved healthy early in camp, it looked like Swisher would be seeing most of his time at first base.
Then it was learned in early March that center fielder Mark Kotsay needed back surgery, so Milton Bradley slid over from right field to center, and Swisher was moved from first to right.
And finally, in the last week of Spring Training, came Dan Johnson's hip injury, which moved Swisher back to first base on a full-time basis -- until Bradley needs a blow, that is. On those days, Swisher will start in center.
"It's been a little crazy, no doubt about it," Swisher said Monday before Opening Day ceremonies at Safeco Field. "But it's actually been kind of fun, too. It takes a mental toll in some ways, but you have to look for positives in everything. Yeah, it'd be nice to have a set spot, but all the bouncing around kind of keeps you from going stale.
"And what's great about being versatile is that I know I'm probably going to be in the lineup every day."
Swisher bounced around quite a bit last season, too, starting a team-high 80 games at first base and a team-high 71 games in left. But he said this spring was different because first-year manager Bob Geren "is such an excellent communicator."
"Last year I knew I'd be playing pretty much every day," Swisher continued, "but I never knew where I'd be playing -- or where I'd be in the batting order, for that matter -- until the lineup card got posted in the clubhouse. Bob, though, from the first day he got the job, has kept me in the loop. I really appreciate that, man, because not every manager will do that.
"Now I know where I'm playing and where I'm hitting the night before the game, and that makes a big difference mentally."
Swisher, who played first base at Ohio State University and has, according to several scouts, Gold Glove potential at the position, said he's "more comfortable" on the infield. But he's worked hard on his outfield defense and will continue to do so until told to stop.
"I'll do whatever Bob wants me to do, and I know he's going to want me in the outfield sometimes," Swisher said. "If I get planted somewhere at some point in my career, great, but right now, I'm a third-year guy still trying to learn as much as I can. And the way I see it, the more positions I have to play, the more I can learn."
Happy homecoming: Travis Buck was a popular interview subject in the clubhouse before the game, and not just because the highly touted rookie was starting in right field for his big-league debut.
Buck grew up 200 miles southeast of Seattle, and he was the Mariners' 23rd-round draft pick -- out of Richland (Wash.) High -- in 2002. Instead of signing, he accepted a scholarship to Arizona State.
Asked how close he came to signing, Buck said, "Not close, but it was really exciting to be drafted by them."
"I was driven to play professional baseball as soon as I could," he added, "but I figured I wanted to go to college to grow as a person."
He obviously grew as a player, too. The A's made Buck their "sandwich pick" between the first and second rounds of the 2005 draft, and he zoomed through the system and into the big leagues in a year and a half, skipping Triple-A entirely.
"It's worked out pretty well," he said with a smile.
"Any Opening Day in the big leagues is special," Geren said. "But for a guy to do it close to his hometown, it's gotta add more to it. I'm sure he'll never forget it."
Graphic memory: Geren wasn't much for talking about his first Opening Day as a big-league manager, saying, "It's not about me; it's about the team." But he did reminisce a little about his first Opening Day as a player.
He'd already played in 75 big-league games over two seasons with the Yankees before he cracked the club's Opening Day roster in 1990, and it was well worth the wait. He started behind the plate at Yankee Stadium and was blown away when he saw his name on a scoreboard graphic of the team's defensive alignment before the game.
"I still have a picture of it in my office," he said. "I don't keep much memorabilia, but that's one thing I kept."
Making the day more special for Geren was his performance. He went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs in a 6-4 win over the Indians, whose starting pitcher was Bud Black, now the manager of the Padres.
"I had a good day," said Geren, a .233 hitter over parts of five big-league seasons. "One of my few."
Dribblers ... Opening Day starter Dan Haren and Swisher this season will again make performance-based contributions to Strikeouts for Troops, the charity created by former A's lefty Barry Zito that assists the families of U.S. soldiers treated at select military hospitals. ... Geren reiterated that Bobby Kielty, who batted .325 against lefties last season, will start Tuesday against Seattle southpaw Jarrod Washburn, most likely in right field. ... The A's haven't provided an update on Johnson's condition for several days, but Geren said Johnson will be re-evaluated midweek. ... Third baseman Eric Chavez tied the Oakland record for consecutive Opening Day starts with his ninth. ... Asked before the game if he was nervous, Swisher smiled and said, "Heck yeah, I'm nervous. Like my daddy always says, 'If it ain't worth getting nervous for, it ain't worth doing.' I get nervous before every single game I play."
Up next: A's righty Joe Blanton, who went 4-0 with a 1.55 ERA in four starts against Seattle last season, will get the ball opposite Washburn on Tuesday in a 7:05 p.m. start.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.