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Dansby Swanson set for Saturday return to Braves’ lineup

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Two weeks after he last played a game, rookie shortstop Dansby Swanson is expected to make a highly anticipated return to the Braves’ lineup Saturday against the Tigers at Champion Stadium.

There will be two weeks and 12 games left in spring training at that point, only two of those games requiring a long bus ride. In other words, there should be time for Swanson, who’s been recovering from back tightness, to shake off any rust and get back into the flow before the regular season.

Swanson said he felt great Thursday morning, and during pregame batting practice he swung with full effort and without favoring the injury.

“He had a good batting practice today, good workout, the whole thing,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker, who also hopes to have third baseman Adonis Garcia (sore hamstring) back in the lineup as soon as Saturday. “Adonis did a lot of curve running, so I think he’s going to be OK. I’m not sure when we’re going to play him. Hopefully Dansby can go (Saturday). We’ll know more tomorrow after we look at how he is after amping up his (rehab regimen).

“He did defensive workout and all that stuff.”

Matt Kemp went 2-for-2 with an RBI single and a walk in three plate appearances during Thursday’s 5-3 loss to the Tigers. Brandon Phillips went 1-for-3 to raise his average to .321, and Freddie Freeman (.476) had a single and a walk in three plate appearances in his second game back after being out of camp eight days for the World Baseball Classic.

“The last few games, (Kemp), Nick (Markakis), Brandon, you can see them kind of getting their timing,” Snitker said. “For me, they’re where we want them to be right now. Because we’re going to get a stretch where we get a couple of these long road trips out of the way and we’re going to have some home games, couple of stints where we can get back-to-back-to-back games, get them some consistent at-bats.

“Get a couple of nine-inning games (from the lineup regulars) in before we leave here, and I think all them guys are in a good spot.”

Swanson has been out since March 4 with tightness in his back and side. Swanson and the Braves said repeatedly that the injury was not significant, and the length of the rest period was longer than it might have been in the regular season. The team wanted him to make sure he was completely recovered, so he wouldn’t aggravate the injury and have it become something that could become a prolonged nagging issue.

Swanson told Snitker that he felt tightness on one side of his back after making several off-balance throws in a March 4 game in which he played more than half the game and had four at-bats. In six Grapefruit League games, he was 7-for-16 with a double, a home run, three walks and a .526 on-base percentage.

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