LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Dansby Swanson was expected to play Saturday after missing two weeks with a strained side. So when his name wasn’t in the Braves lineup announced before 8 a.m., mild panic ensued on Twitter.
Not to worry, said the Braves’ popular rookie. Instead of returning directly into a Grapefruit League game, the Braves decided it best for him to get at-bats in a minor league game on a back field Saturday at their spring-training complex.
He proceeded to go 2-for-3 with a single and a line-drive two-run homer against the Tigers’ Triple-A team, while batting second in each of the first three innings and not playing in the field.
“That’s a good sign,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “Hopefully they clear him and we get him in there (Sunday vs. St. Louis). But that was good. They said he had a really strenuous workout, the whole thing this morning, and then batting practice and all that. So, he’s OK. That was good he got some hits.”
Swanson said he didn’t have any setback in his recovery from a side strain — yes, it was a side strain rather than “back tightness” as it was previously described — and was ready to play in Saturday’s Grapefruit League game. But he agreed with the decision to wait a bit longer for full game action.
“Progression, probably the smart thing,” he said Saturday morning, before heading to the back fields. “We were talking yesterday. I was like, I want to play, but let’s not be my stubborn, competitive, let’s-just-go-out-and-do-it-again. … We just decided this was probably the best option. I’ll be going through full BP (batting practice) today and doing some extra BP and stuff on the backfield after regular BP.
“Just still kind of building endurance, that kind of progression, getting a few at-bats without (pushing things too much). I guess when you go back there you can get your at-bats, get into some type of rhythm and not, like, worry about playing a full game. It’ll be a good stepping stone to get back where I need to be.”
Snitker said that if things went smoothly Saturday, Swanson should play Sunday against the Cardinals.
“Earlier I said (Saturday return to lineup), but we just want him to hit over there first,” Snitker said before the minor league game Swanson participated in. “The thing now is, get the at-bats. Because he’s been doing all the defensive work and that stuff. Not torqueing everything huge, being smart about it. But he’s good. Probably during the season he would have missed maybe three days.”
Swanson has been out since leaving a March 4 game with tightness that he felt after making several off-balance throws. He and the team had previously described the injury as minor back tightness, but Snitker said this week it was more of a strain on his right (throwing) side, which Swanson confirmed Saturday.
“Almost, like, over-rotated,” Swanson said. “I was a little tight that day and you over-rotate, something’s got to compensate. So that’s what happened. “I guess it’s a blessing that it happened now and not during the season. … I think, honestly, it’s more of a blessing to be able to recognize some things that I can work on to prevent things like that in the future.”
He spent much of the past two weeks working with Andrew Hauser, the Braves’ director of player health and performance, on ways to improve his posture while playing and making throws.
“Hauser is great with all that kind of stuff,” he said. “So just being able to take care of myself — instead of just mask the problem, truly fix it. Nice to be able to do and have the luxury of doing it down here (at spring training).”
In six Grapefruit League games before the injury, Swanson was 7-for-16 with a double, a home run, three walks and a .526 on-base percentage.
“If I’d been struggling before and not being able to find a rhythm, that’s one thing,” he said. “But since I was feeling pretty good it makes it a little bit easier to get back into things and not feel rushed or panicked.”