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Swanson greets Scherzer with long home run

MLB.com @mlbbowman

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Asked to at least generalize what he focused on changing during the offseason, Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson smiled and replied, "Let's just say self-awareness."

Swanson was surrounded by hype when the D-backs took him with the first overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. He became the focus of many marketing campaigns after debuting with the Braves in '16, and he had a successful first two months as a Major Leaguer.

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Asked to at least generalize what he focused on changing during the offseason, Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson smiled and replied, "Let's just say self-awareness."

Swanson was surrounded by hype when the D-backs took him with the first overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. He became the focus of many marketing campaigns after debuting with the Braves in '16, and he had a successful first two months as a Major Leaguer.

View Full Game Coverage

But after Swanson struggled throughout last season, it's easy to say that too much might have been asked of him, too soon. This year, Swanson has returned mentally refreshed, yet still confident, intent on turning the page on 2017. He provided an encouraging sign when he homered off Max Scherzer during the first inning of Sunday's 9-3 loss to the Nationals at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

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"I fine-tuned some things during the offseason, stuff I believe in and stuff I believe will pay huge dividends moving forward," Swanson said. "Now, it's more of a matter of making them a habit instead of continuing to do the things I don't need to be doing."

Spring Training results, especially those produced during the first week of the Grapefruit League season, might not matter. But when a player is coming off a season during which he hit .232 with six homers and a .636 OPS, homering off a three-time Cy Young Award winner should at least be viewed as a welcome confidence booster.

"I think it has to [help], but I'm going to get right back at it tomorrow," Swanson said.

Swanson's home run, which nearly hit an office building located behind the left-field bullpen, came against a 1-0 fastball that was high and inside. It was certainly an enticing pitch for the Braves' shortstop, who hit .329 with a .529 slugging percentage against pitches on the inner third of the plate, according to Statcast™.

It's proven to be his sweet spot: when Swanson returned in early August from his brief demotion to Triple-A Gwinnett, he showed better plate discipline and seemed less susceptible to sliders and other pitches thrown on the outer third. But he still hit just .220 with a .284 slugging percentage against pitches that were located on the outer third of the plate.

Swanson appreciated the results of his first-inning at-bat against Scherzer, but he said he was even more encouraged by the quality contact he made when he lined out to right field against Austin Voth during the fourth inning.

"Any time you can hit the ball well the other way, it shows good signs," Swanson said. "Today, overall was a good day. I just need to move forward with things."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Dansby Swanson