Dansby Swanson’s sooner-than-expected return to the majors Wednesday won’t be nearly the headline-grabbing event that his demotion was two weeks ago.
The rookie shortstop was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett following Johan Camargo’s knee injury Tuesday. Swanson was in the Braves’ lineup Wednesday night against the Phillies, batting eighth.
Yes, The Flow is back in The Show. Now the Braves hope to see improvement from Swanson, whom they still consider to be a big part of their future despite his struggles in this, his first full season in the big leagues.
“It’s unfortunate circumstance that led to it, but it’s good that we had somewhere to go,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of the injury to Camargo, a bone bruise expected to sideline him for at least two weeks.
The plan is for Swanson to be the every-day starter at least while Camargo is away, maybe longer depending how things go in the next two weeks. Swanson was in the lineup Wednesday for the first time at the big-league level alongside his friend and former minor league double-play partner Ozzie Albies, the second-base prospect called up last week from Triple-A.
“It’s an unfortunate thing, the injury,” Snitker said. “But you never know how things will work out. Lot of times things have a way of working out for the best. So, just hope Johan gets well soon and this isn’t an extended stay away, and go from there.”
Since he was optioned to Triple-A on July 26, Swanson hit .237 (9-for-38) in 11 games with one double, one home run, five RBIs, six walks and nine strikeouts, with a .356 on-base percentage and .342 slugging percentage.
“It was great,” Swanson said of the experience. “First of all, a lot of good guys down there. I enjoyed getting to play with them and just get back to square one, just enjoy myself and things like that. Being able to do it with those guys definitely made it a lot easier. Definitely in a good place right now.”
He made nine starts at shortstop and two at second base, a sign of the Braves’ ongoing evaluation of rookie infielders Swanson, Camargo and Ozzie Albies as they determine which of, and where, the pieces fit best going forward.
In his last three games for Gwinnett, Swanson was 3-for-8 with a homer, two walks and three RBIs. He had an RBI double in his only at-bat Tuesday before being pulled from the game following Camargo’s injury.
“I just felt a lot more comfortable” recently, Swanson said. “Comfortable and confident, just kind of felt like myself and felt like I was going in the right direction, staying steady. It was good to see some results to go along with the work I’ve been putting in.”
It was the first stint in Triple-A for Swanson, who was called up from Double-A directly to the majors in August 2016.
It was assumed, especially given his modest .698 OPS at Gwinnett, that Swanson probably wouldn’t rejoin the major league team until rosters were expanded in September. But the Camargo injury left the Braves with few options and none more appealing than bringing back Swanson, who will likely be the primary shortstop again while Camargo is out.
Snitker wasn’t surprised at all to hear that Swanson returned with such a good attitude after being sent down.
“That’s part of the reason why I love that kid so much is his makeup, his awareness of things,” Snitker said. “He gets it. Like he said, he can probably go down and use that to his advantage and hopefully come up here and play really well.”
Camargo was injured in a freak accident Tuesday night when he hyperextended the knee while reaching over to pick up some dirt on the first-base line as he jogged onto the field before the first inning of a game against the Phillies. He crumpled to the ground and had to be helped off the field, and Camargo and the Braves were relieved that an MRI showed no ligament damage.
A day later, Snitker updated Camargo’s condition.
“He’s sore, but they said it didn’t swell bad or anything like that, so that’s a good thing,” he said. “It’s going to be sore for a while, but I think looking at the alternative, this was probably the best scenario that we could have.”
Swanson, 23, was optioned to Triple-A after batting .214 with six homers and a .287 on-base percentage in 95 games. It was a move that would’ve been hard to fathom when the season began, after Swanson had batted .302 with a .361 OBP in 38 major league games late last season in his first call-up – and what many believed would be his last call-up, since a demotion to the minors seemed highly unlikely ever again for the No. 1 overall selection of the 2015 draft.
A former Marietta High School and Vanderbilt University star, Swanson was picked to be a front-runner for National League Rookie of the Year in 2017 and was the subject of many Braves advertising and ticket-sales campaigns during the offseason.
But no one figured he would struggled like he did against the slider and that teams would fully exploit that weakness, and that his frustrations would compound and begin to affect Swanson’s overall performance including defense.
A couple of weeks after then-hot-hitting Camargo began to share shortstop duties with Swanson, the Braves decided it best to send Swanson to Triple-A and let him play every day and regain his confidence while working on his approach.
“Just kind of slow things down and back out of what’s going on here and kind of re-focus a little bit and reset,” Snitker said. “So I’m sure it was good for him.”
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