Swanson has slayed his spring slump

April 4th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Jordan Bastian's Cubs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CHICAGO -- During Spring Training, when  was fighting through a prolonged offensive drought, the Cubs shortstop received a call from his dad. He reminded Swanson of the biblical tale of the shepherd boy David, who defeated the giant Goliath with a stone from a sling.

“He was like, ‘He brought five stones,’” Swanson said. “‘If he knew he was going to be perfect, he would've just brought one.’ He was like, ‘Quit trying to be so perfect. Just go and do it.’”

Swanson let out a slight laugh while recalling the story after the Cubs’ Opening Day win over the Brewers. He said that simple message from his dad during the preseason helped him sort out his frame of mind for the last stretch of Cactus League games. All the work being done in the batting cage to get his swing mechanics and timing in order paid off, too.

In the Cubs’ season opener, Swanson churned out three hits. In Chicago’s second game, the shortstop delivered three more, giving him the most hits in a player’s first two games with the Cubs since Emilio Bonifacio rattled off nine in 2014. In the North Siders’ finale against the Brewers, he added an RBI single and a walk.

The 7-for-12 (.583 average) performance in the batter’s box -- coupled with a handful of brilliant defensive plays already -- gave Cubs fans an early glimpse into why the ballclub gifted Swanson a seven-year, $177 million contract over the offseason. In a small sample of games, he showed off his gap-to-gap hitting, aggressiveness on the bases and elite defense.

“You know he is all about the right things and he just wants to win,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said. “He wants to contribute to wins and good baseball in any way possible, which is exactly what we wanted.”

No one was panicking over Swanson’s spring showing, but it was impossible not to wonder what was happening with the shortstop. Prior to his last two spring games -- in which he belted a pair of deep-breath-inducing homers -- Swanson had gone 3-for-37 in the batter’s box.

“Early in spring, you just want to swing at good pitches, right?” Swanson said. “And I felt like I was doing that. And then as it kept going on it was kind of like, ‘Hey, man, you're swinging at good pitches. Why do you keep fouling them off?’ That's really what it was, just swinging at the right pitch, foul ball. Swing at another good pitch, foul ball.

“It's like, ‘OK.’ So, there's a little bit of frustration, because you can start talking yourself into a, whether you want to call it a slump or a lull. You just kind of get back to work.”

Each game, Swanson will get four or five at-bats. Maybe he can think of them as stones.

“That, in a way, kind of just freed me up,” Swanson said of his spring chat with his dad. “It's like, ‘Just go play, man. Just go play. Enjoy it. Be intent about what you're doing.’”