ATLANTA -- As Dansby Swanson spent most of last season battling a sore left wrist, he was unable to extend the success he had previously had against pitches on the inner third of the plate. But now that the Braves' shortstop is healthy and consistently driving balls the other way,
ATLANTA -- As Dansby Swanson spent most of last season battling a sore left wrist, he was unable to extend the success he had previously had against pitches on the inner third of the plate. But now that the Braves' shortstop is healthy and consistently driving balls the other way, it looks like his plate coverage will be better than its been during either of his two previous big league seasons.
Swanson showed some opposite-field power when he directed David Hernandez’s outside fastball over the right-field wall during Monday night’s 8-5 win over the Reds at SunTrust Park. The seventh-inning solo shot leaves the Braves shortstop with a .313 (10-for-32) batting average and .827 OPS entering Tuesday’s exhibition season finale.
“I think the big thing is the kid is healthy, he doesn’t have that bothersome wrist he fought all of last year,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “That was good to see him go the other way there. I don’t know if he’s ever hit an opposite-field homer.”
Braves preparing to defend NL East crown
Per Statcast data, 19 of Swanson’s 23 career home runs have been pulled and the other four have been hit to straightaway center field. But after having damaged cartilage surgically removed from his left wrist in November, the 25-year-old infielder is showing he may be capable of going the other way with some authority.
When Swanson batted .357 and produced a .961 OPS through the 13 games played before his wrist became a season-long issue last season, he went 7-for-19 and generated a .474 slugging percentage against pitches on the outer third of the plate and went 4-for-11 while slugging .727 against pitches on the inner third.
As he hit .223 with a .372 SLG over his remaining 123 games, he batted .227 (15-for-66) and slugged .545 against pitches on the outer third. Against pitches on the inner third, he hit .263 (26-for-99) and slugged .364.
During the 2017 season, Swanson hit .329 with a .539 SLG against pitches on the inner third and batted just .221 (31-for-140) with a .286 SLG against pitches on the outer third. If he can get back to handling inside pitches with regularity and prove himself to be more consistent against outside pitches, Swanson may come closer to realizing the potential that led the D-backs to take him with the first pick in the 2015 MLB Draft.
“He’s had some really good at-bats,” Snitker said. “I like the way he’s turning the bat loose. He’s been letting the ball get deep. It’s been good to see. I’m glad he’s healthy.”
Wes Parsons’ scoreless streak ended when he surrendered an RBI single to Jesse Winker following Ozzie Albies’ two-out throwing error during Monday night’s fourth inning. Still, the undrafted 26-year-old right-handed reliever will exit the preseason without allowing an earned run over 15 innings.
Parsons followed Winker’s single by getting Joey Votto to look at an 0-2 fastball on the outside corner. This accounted for one of the 17 strikeouts he produced while issuing just one walk over 15 innings this spring.
Barring an unforeseen development, Parsons, who has the capability to cover multiple innings, will be placed on Atlanta’s Opening Day roster as a reliever. He was promoted to the Majors three times last year, but made just one appearance.
“He hasn’t done it at this level yet,” Snitker said. “But the way he went about it and the way he handled himself during Spring Training, it seemed like he was on a mission. He’s confident in what he’s got. He could be a huge part of this thing.”
A.J. Minter completed a pain-free inning in a Minor League game Monday afternoon, and Mike Foltynewicz recovered well from the 35-pitch live batting session he completed Sunday. Minter’s appearance was his first since exiting his March 1 spring debut with left shoulder tightness. Foltynewicz’s session accounted for the first time he faced hitters since his right elbow began bothering him following his Feb. 24 spring debut.
Foltynewicz will attempt to throw 50 pitches during a Minor League game on Friday and then increase his pitch count to approximately 70 during Triple-A Gwinnett’s April 4 season debut. The All-Star hurler would then likely make one more rehab start before possibly being activated during Atlanta’s second homestand (April 11-18).
Minter and Kevin Gausman, who battled shoulder soreness during the early part of Spring Training, will both be placed on the injured list, retroactive to March 25. Gausman is targeted to start against the Marlins on April 6 and Minter could make his season debut around that same time.
The Braves will conclude their spring season when they host the Reds again on Tuesday afternoon at SunTrust Park at 1:10 p.m. ET. Kyle Wright will face Reds right-hander Anthony DeSclafani in what will be Wright's final tuneup before making his first career start against the Phillies on Sunday night.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.