A day after saying he wasn’t ready to drop Dansby Swanson from the second spot in the lineup, Braves manager decided to give the slumping rookie shortstop a day out of the lineup for Thursday night’s series finale against the Nationals.
Swanson 0-for-8 with four strikeouts in the first two games of the series and 3-for-33 with no extra-base hits, one walk and nine strikeouts in his past eight games, dropping his batting average to .131 with a .159 on-base percentage and .197 slugging percentage.
“I guess it’s just, like, a mental day,” said Swanson, who didn’t find out he wasn’t starting until the lineup was posted with Jace Peterson at shortstop. “I don’t know. I mean, Jace will do a fine job…. It’s just one of those things where they probably think that’s just what’s best, just to get a day to kind of go out there and be relaxed today and kind of just hang out, get my work during (batting practice) and all those kinds of things.”
Swanson was one of six Braves who had started all 14 games at one position before Thursday, when Peterson made his first start at shortstop and Adonis Garcia moved up from the sixth or seventh spot in the batting order to hit second. Swanson had batted second in every previous game this season.
Snitker said that Swanson would be back in the lineup Friday at Philadelphia for the opener of a three-game series and three-city, nine-game trip.
“With all the off days I just didn’t really see a need to do it (before),” he said of resting Swanson. “You can have all the plans you want for guys, but you just go day to day and trust your gut. I think this will be good for him. Plus, somebody else has got to play shortstop every now and then, too, so I wanted to get Jace out there before he gets too far detached from that also.”
Snitker made it a point to say that Swanson should be ready to play Thursday, just in case. “Young guy, they need to come ready to play every day. If you’re not in there, just do your thing and be ready to go tonight. It’s not like a day off because you’ve got to be ready. He could be in there at any point in time.”
When asked about not telling Swanson he’d be out of the lineup, Snitker joked, “If he had 15 years in the big leagues I would have probably told him last night.”
Snitker is one of Swanson’s biggest supporters and has been steadfast in his corner during Swanson’s early season slump, downplaying the bad stats, noting how many times the rookie has hit line drives right at defenders and pointing out repeatedly that it’s only Swanson’s second full season of professional baseball.
The former Marietta High School and Vanderbilt University start was the No. 1 overall selection of the 2015 draft by Arizona, which traded Swanson to the Braves at the December 2015 Winter Meetings along with Ender Inciarte and pitching prospect Aaron Blair in exchange for pitcher Shelby Miller.
Swanson, who turned 23 in February, was called up from Double-A last August and hit .302 with a .361 OBP, 11 extra-base hits (three homers) and an .803 OPS in 38 games and 129 at-bats – one at-bat shy of the limit to retain rookie status.
This season teams have exploited his struggles against the slider and Swanson has also had some bad luck, as his relatively high line-drive rate and his low batting average on balls in play — .159, fifth-lowest in the National League – could attest. But in recent days he’s looked out of sorts at the plate and his OPS sunk to .355, second-lowest among NL qualifiers before Thursday.
“When you’re going like this each at-bat is kind of a battle,” Swanson said. “I was just talking to some people about how, it’s like, they throw those perfect breaking balls on certain counts and they make certain pitches, and then when you do hit balls hard people seem to be standing right there and stuff. But you’ve got to do your best to not let that affect you — just because you’re not getting the result doesn’t mean you’re not doing the right thing.
“This game, it’s hard. It’s just a weird concept because you can execute everything perfectly and not be successful, whereas in football if you run a play perfectly you’re going to be successful, or in basketball if you shoot the perfect shot it’s going in. It’s just funny how, in this (sport), you can take the perfect swing and it doesn’t matter. Nothing’s really in your control except your immediate action.”