SEATTLE -- There was a favorite lunch spot in Tuscaloosa where Dave Robertson would sometimes glance at a photo of himself from his college days at Alabama, watching over those plates of pork, brisket or beef.
As Robertson visited his tornado-ravaged hometown on Thursday, he was horrified to see that landmark and so many others like it reduced to wreckage, leaving the Yankees hurler wondering when -- or if -- things will return to normal.
"You see the pictures and everything, but when you get down there and see how wide it is, and how much was destroyed -- it just kept going," Robertson said. "It's like 6.2 miles through Tuscaloosa of just straight devastation. There's nothing but piles of rubble left."
Robertson and his wife, Erin, have created a foundation with the intent of helping those affected by the tornadoes. The website, highsocksforhope.com, is already online.
"I had to see it," said Robertson, who flew to Seattle early on Friday morning. "I had to know what money we can raise can go to good use and really help out."
While Robertson's family lives about five miles from the heart of the devastation, he said that the produce store where he purchased last year's Christmas tree is now just a concrete slab, and a recently built elementary school has been reduced to cinder blocks.
"You just see entire neighborhoods that have been wiped out, where there's just pieces of the buildings standing," Robertson said. "Seeing my hometown destroyed is just difficult. It's disturbing."
Robertson has pledged to donate $100 for every strikeout he records this season to the recovery effort.
On Thursday, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association joined together to pledge an immediate donation of $200,000 toward relief efforts for tornado victims affected by recent storms in the Midwest and Southeast.
"I wish I could go down there and use my hands to help people rebuild, but I'm not able to," Robertson said. "I'm going to do everything I can on the other end so I can raise money and get supplies to the people down there."
Struggling Swisher refreshes mental approach
SEATTLE -- It was at Safeco Field last season that Nick Swisher enjoyed one of his best days as a professional athlete, learning that he'd won the American League Final Vote and would be heading to his first All-Star Game.
Vowing that he is bringing a clean attitude into this nine-game road trip, Swisher is hoping Seattle will be the beginning of his climb back to a level of standout performance.
"Today I'm coming in here with a fresh mind, ready to go," Swisher said. "Now I've just got to go out there and show you guys. I can't keep coming in here thinking about the same things every day. My mind has changed."
Swisher was hitless in his last 15 at-bats entering play on Friday, but he said that the last thing he wanted to do was waste New York's off-day fretting about his .204 batting average.
Instead, Swisher spent part of his day Thursday taking in "The Hangover Part II." He said that his father, former big leaguer Steve Swisher, has been a strong influence in convincing Swisher to turn the page.
"He said, 'Hey, you've done it for two months. I did it for a long time,'" Swisher said of his dad, who was a career .216 hitter in nine seasons with the Cubs, Cardinals and Padres.
"It's so much easier to listen to people who've been there and done that. For me, it's more on the mental side than anything, and I'm doing that and fighting my battles. I'm ready to get out there and get some knocks because everything else feels good."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he senses Swisher has been largely the same presence in the clubhouse and on the field, but he also has no doubt that the prolonged offensive struggles are weighing on him.
"It's somewhat of a concern just because you know frustration builds for players," Girardi said. "The big thing is, can you block the frustration out and get back to doing what you do?
"It's difficult to look up there [at the numbers] in May and that's what's going on. Players have so much pride and work so hard in what they do. If he can control the frustration level, I believe he's going to hit."
Girardi: Collisions at plate 'part of the game'
SEATTLE -- Like everyone else, Joe Girardi winced when the Giants' Buster Posey absorbed what might prove to be a season-ending hit on Wednesday, but the Yankees manager isn't sure if rules changes need to be made.
Girardi caught for 15 seasons in the big leagues and said that putting your body in harm's way -- the way Posey did with the Marlins' Scott Cousins at San Francisco's AT&T Park -- is just part of the gig.
"I was always taught a certain way to block the plate and protect yourself," Girardi said. "Sometimes you get vulnerable as a catcher. I had a separated shoulder, I had a broken nose, but I always thought it was just part of the game.
"When you're playing in a competitive spirit, you're playing for a lot."
One change Girardi would like to see implemented, however, is to disallow collisions between baserunners and catchers in exhibition games. In 2008, Girardi was furious when the Rays' Elliot Johnson collided with Francisco Cervelli, fracturing the young backstop's wrist.
"Definitely eliminating it in Spring Training, I think that makes a ton of sense," Girardi said. "There's no reason to have someone hurt in Spring Training when the games don't count on your record."
Mark Teixeira has been on the other side of several violent collisions, including a hard hit on Jorge Posada in 2006 at the old Yankee Stadium and one last April on the Angels' Bobby Wilson.
Teixeira said that no one wants to see players hurt, but hitting catchers is part of the game, and telling charging baserunners to go against what they have been taught for years could be damaging as well.
"Look at Josh Hamilton," Teixeira said. "When you try to do something out of your comfort zone at home plate especially, you have a guy with armor that's sitting there and is solid.
"If you try to get around them or slide awkwardly, you're going to get hurt as a runner. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is just curl up, put your shoulder down and hope that you knock the ball loose."
Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes threw about 20 fastballs off a bullpen mound on Friday at Safeco Field. He has been on the disabled list since April 15.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said there is no notable progress to report with infielder Eric Chavez (fractured left foot) or pitchers Pedro Feliciano (left rotator cuff strain) and Rafael Soriano (right elbow inflammation). Chavez has not yet been able to resume running.
NBA Hall of Famer Bill Russell threw out Friday's ceremonial first pitch at Safeco Field.